US to back Kenya reform process

January 28, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 28 – The US government has emphasised its commitment to supporting Kenya’s constitution review process, registration of new voters and the upcoming referendum.

Responding to an appeal by Prime Minister Raila Odinga, US Under Secretary for Democracy Maria Otero said Kenya is going through an interesting and historic moment that America is keen to support.

“Kenya is making good progress and America is committed to support this great historical moment.  It is a step to move beyond 2007,” Ms Otere said about the constitution making process.

Ms Otere held talks with the Prime Minister at his Treasury Building offices in the company of US ambassador Michael Ranneberger.

During the talks, Mr Odinga expressed hope that the 20-year journey in search for a new constitution may be coming to an end but appealed for steady support from the US.

“This is a defining moment for Kenya.  It has been a long journey.  We have spent at least 20 years looking for a new constitution.  It has been a journey through hills and valleys.  But today, I can say that I see the final hill where this journey is going to end,” the PM said.

“We may not get an ideal constitution, but that’s why there is room for amendments,” he added.

Thanking the US for the support on reforms, the PM said Kenya needs more help with the referendum and registration of voters.

He said the government is keen to deliver a new constitution and parties are ready to make compromises.

The PM said the decision to settle for a pure presidential system was a major compromise between proponents of a pure Parliamentary and hybrid systems.

He said the Interim Independent Electoral Commission needed funds to carry out fresh registration of voters ahead of the referendum.  The referendum process also needs a lot of money, the PM said.

Mr Odinga said it is important for the registration of voters to be completed early to allow the referendum to be conducted in time so that the country does not lose the momentum for reform.

The two US officials said America will support the IIEC with the ambassador saying they are putting together “a couple of millions of dollars” for the IIEC.

Ms Otere said the realisation of a new constitution will put Kenya on the best path to move Kenya forward.

She asked the government to back it with rapid efforts at reconciliation and search for justice for victims of post election violence.

Pledging support for the IIEC, Ms Otere said America is aware that there were over two million dead voters whose names remained in the register and “voted” in 2007.

“We are aware that over two million dead people voted in 2007, so we will support the process of compiling a new voters’ register.  At a time when the whole world is watching Kenya, we want to be there with our support,” she said.


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