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Last Updated: Friday, 22 July, 2005, 00:25 GMT 01:25 UK
Kenyan MPs approve constitution
Man surrounded by Kenyan police
The draft constitution triggered days of unrest in Nairobi
The Kenyan parliament has approved a draft constitution which critics say leaves too much power in the hands of President Mwai Kibaki.

In a stormy late night session, MPs voted in favour of changes to the draft aimed at ensuring that most executive power rests with the presidency.

The constitution will be subject to a popular referendum later in the year.

The vote came after three days of riots in Nairobi, sparked by the president's handling of the constitutional reforms.

One person was shot dead in clashes with police on Wednesday.

We are sure that by the end of the year, we will have a new constitution
Kiratu Murungi
Justice Minister
During the demonstrations, mounted police prevented activists from approaching parliament where the draft document was being discussed.

The streets of central Nairobi remain strewn with rubble from protests and looting.

Campaign pledge

The draft was approved by 102 votes to 61 after the parliamentary session was extended until midnight local time.

The government called the vote a landmark in Kenya's efforts to change the constitution for the first time since independence from Britain in 1963.

President Kibaki
Kibaki is fighting to prevent the president's powers being eroded
"We are very happy," Justice Minister Kiratu Murungi told Reuters news agency.

"We are sure that by the end of the year, we will have a new constitution."

But the opposition said the protests showed many Kenyans were against the draft constitution.

Four cabinet ministers voted with the opposition and the issue has threatened to split the ruling Narc coalition.

The draft constitution sets up a new post of prime minister. However, Mr Kibaki's critics say the president retains most powers.

He was elected in 2002, partly on a promise to reduce the president's powers.

"We will put up as much protest as necessary to stop a few politicians disregarding the will of the people," Kotiamet Ole-Kina, whose Katiba (Constitution) Watch group is one of those organising the demonstrations, told Reuters.

The concentration of power and patronage in the hands of previous presidents has been blamed for much of the widespread corruption in Kenya.


SEE ALSO:
Kenyan police battle protesters
20 Jul 05 |  Africa


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