, WASHINGTON, April 3 – The White House has welcomed the Kenyan parliament\’s approval of a new draft constitution, hoping for a "promising new chapter" for a country in which US President Barack Obama has family roots.
"We are encouraged by the strong statements made by President (Mwai) Kibaki and Prime Minister (Raila) Odinga in support of the draft," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs in a statement.
"A unified effort to see this important reform element through can help to turn the page to a promising new chapter of Kenyan history.
"We urge all Kenyans to focus on the future of their nation and to unify in support of a peaceful and credible referendum and electoral process."
Kenyan lawmakers approved the new draft constitution on Thursday, introducing key changes to the country\’s basic law, which will be submitted to a referendum later this year.
Enacting a new constitution was one of the reforms called for under a power-sharing deal between Kibaki and former opposition chief Odinga after the country\’s post-election unrest two years ago.
The draft proposes the creation of a Senate and of a Supreme Court. It also gives the new bicameral National Assembly authority to impeach the president.
Obama, whose late father was Kenyan, is closely followed in Kenya, and his election as America\’s first black president was widely celebrated there.