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Diplomats Condemn Referendum Violence in Kenya

A group of foreign diplomats is condemning violence associated with Kenya's upcoming referendum on the new constitution and calling for the Kenyan government to adhere to its code of conduct regarding the referendum.

A statement, signed by 25 diplomatic missions in the capital Nairobi, followed a meeting between the foreign diplomats and the chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya, Samuel Kivuitu.

"We have exchanged our concerns with Mr. Kivuitu regarding the fairness, the transparency and the absence of violence that we all want to see in this forthcoming process," said Switzerland's ambassador to Kenya, Pierre Combernous, describing the meeting to reporters.

Kenya is set to hold a referendum on November 21 asking voters whether or not to accept the latest version of the country's constitution.

Many people are upset with the proposed document and the way that the government has handled the situation, accusing the government of retaining too many powers for the president.

An earlier conference had drafted a constitution in which some of the president's powers were distributed to a prime minister and local authorities in an attempt to safeguard the country from having a too-powerful president.

The latest version, changed by politicians, restores powers to the president and makes the prime minister's position largely a figurehead.

In recent days, rival factions in the constitution debate have been attacking one another.

Ministers close to President Mwai Kibaki have been quoted promising to use state resources to campaign for the adobption of the draft constitution.

Canadian High Commissioner Jim Wall told reporters he and the other diplomats are displeased with the latest developments, and called for the government to act ethically.

"We look to all political leaders and party executives to ensure party members and political supporters adhere to the Referendum Code of Conduct," he said. "We expect members of government and government officials to refrain from any inappropriate use of public resources for political purposes, in accordance with the Public Officers Ethics Act."

President Kibaki and his party won the 2002 elections mainly on his party's promise to change the constitution to trim the president's powers.