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International voices

by Hans Dembowski
The vast majority of Kenyans approved their country’s new constitution in a referendum on 4 August. The coalition of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga thus prevailed over the opposition led by churches and Daniel arap Moi, a former president. International media hardly covered this important event, but D+C/E+Z did find the following comments:

Daily Nation, Nairobi
For Kenya, a long and frustrating journey of constitutional reform, which at nearly 30 years is the world’s longest, has come to an end. The Kenya that lies ahead, where the promise of a new constitution is not a top campaign item in elections, is truly a country not everyone believed they would live to see.

Washington Post
There are two reasons to hail the adoption of Kenya's new constitution, which won about two-thirds of the vote in a national referendum last week. The first cause for celebration is that the vote itself, and the campaign preceding it, took place, for the most part, peacefully. […] The second is the content of the constitution itself. It […] limits the president's power, making him or her subject to impeachment. It also creates countervailing power centres, such as a Supreme Court and a Senate, and gives local authorities more autonomy.

Financial Times, London
As Kenya heads towards elections in 2012, its allies should back its efforts at reform. In a region of troubled states wracked by insta­­bi­lity and extremism, Kenya has immense significance as a broadly pro-western demo­cracy, fragile as it is. Although previous bouts of optimism have been undermined by events, the country’s sense of rebirth should be encouraged. The latest wind of change to sweep through the country could just bring lasting good.

Deutschlandfunk, Cologne
Of course Kenya is not heading into the future as an innocent, new-born baby. But the people’s “yes” to the new constitution clearly indicates that they still have faith in their country – and that they are prepared to participate in shaping its fate. This time, the Kikuyu and Luo, who fought one another in riots not so long ago, pulled together. And the constitution’s opponents conceded defeat, accepting that the majority prevails in a demo­cracy. These messages should be heeded in other African countries as well. Violence does not have to be followed up by more violence. Kenya proves that a new beginning is possible.