Kenya's president, Mwai Kibaki, has appealed for peace and unity ahead of a referendum on a new constitution that has deeply divided the nation and stoked fears of escalating violence.

Mr. Kibaki urged a crowd attending a Hero's Day ceremony marking Kenya's independence struggle not to allow differences over the constitution to divide them.

President Kibaki - who supports the new constitution - made no direct appeal for voters to adopt the charter.

Kenyans are scheduled to cast ballots on the constitution November 21. It is the first complete rewriting of the charter since the nation won its independence from Britain in 1963.

Violence has marred rallies during the campaign in the run-up to the vote and left the ruling party deeply split.

Critics say the new constitution fails to create a strong prime ministerial post, designed in an earlier version to curb the sweeping powers of the president.

Some information in this report provided by AFP.