, NAIROBI, Aug 6 – The Panel of Eminent African Personalities chaired by former UN chief Kofi Annan on Thursday praised Kenyans for approving a new, more democratic Constitution in a peaceful referendum.
"The Panel of Eminent African Personalities is greatly encouraged by the successful conclusion of the referendum on Kenya’s new constitution," it said in a statement.
Results confirming that two-thirds of Kenyan voters backed the new constitution in Wednesday\’s referendum came two and a half years after Mr Annan and other leading figures in the panel flew to the country\’s rescue.
Mr Annan and his team brokered a power-sharing agreement that pulled President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga out of an electoral dispute that left 1,500 people dead and tarnished Kenya\’s image.
"We very much welcome reports which indicate that Kenyans were able to vote in a free, fair and peaceful atmosphere," the statement said.
Wednesday\’s referendum, which passed off without a single major incident, was the most significant step undertaken by Kenya\’s government to implement a reform agenda outlined with Annan\’s help in 2008.
"There are no winners or losers in this referendum. It is Kenya itself that has triumphed," said the panel, which also includes former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa and Graca Machel-Mandela of Mozambique.
The Panel also hailed the Interim Independent Electoral Commission for the successful exercise.
“The high voter turnout nationally reflects the strong desire of Kenya\’s people to help shape their country\’s future. The result of the referendum, published by the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) on 5 August, suggests that Kenyans have voiced their overwhelming support for a new constitution and the opportunity it provides to end the country\’s decades-long quest for a better governance architecture,” the statement says.
The Panel called on all Kenyans to respect the will of the people, reconcile their differences and join together to implement the new Constitution and inject new energy into reform efforts.
“We commend the two Principals for their stewardship of the constitutional review process and congratulate the Government and the people of Kenya for this momentous step. We urge all involved to honour their commitments to the outstanding reforms envisaged under Agenda Item 4 of the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation process.”
The Government will need the support of political, civic, religious and business leaders as well as that of Kenya\’s friends around the world to realize the promises this new Constitution contains, they said.
“The Panel stands ready to support Kenya at this historic and exciting time,” the Panel said.