Kenya's ruling Kanu party held a major political rally on Saturday to launch its new vision for Kenya in preparation for coming elections. However, it is not clear when the elections will be held.

There was a festive atmosphere at Nairobi's historic Kamukunji grounds, as a huge crowd waited for President Daniel arap Moi to speak. Women sang and danced, while children waved Kanu flags.

It is the largest rally Kenya's ruling party has held since it merged with the National Development Party in March. Observers interpret the meeting as the start of the ruling party's election campaign.

But the date of the elections has become politically sensitive in recent weeks.

President Moi, one of Africa's longest serving rulers, is constitutionally bound to step down at the next elections, which were expected in December. But his party is trying to push through a constitutional amendment to extend the life of parliament to May 2003, and thus delay his retirement.

Addressing the crowd, President Moi rejected accusations that he is trying to cling to power. "I've been your member and your leader in this country for 47 years. I've always loved peace. Without peace, we can never move. And therefore, people think Moi's dictating anybody. I've never dictated anybody, but people overseas think that Moi would like to cling to power," he said.

The Kenyan public and the international community have reacted angrily to efforts by Kanu legislators to extend parliament until the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission finishes drafting a new constitution.

President Moi has been careful to publicly distance himself from the campaign. However, observers believe he is behind it. At a dinner Friday night, the aging president gave his support to the extension proposal.

At the Kamukunji rally, the former leader of NDP and now Kanu secretary- general, Raila Odinga, said he wanted the next election to be under a new constitution, as an opposition leader, and that his view has not changed since joining Kanu.

Analysts say Kanu is desperate for a new constitution because President Moi has not yet picked his successor, and would like to introduce a system with additional posts such as prime minister and deputy prime minister, to satisfy all the contenders.