Obama: Kenya’s new law a boon

President Obama has paid glowing tribute to Kenyans for endorsing the new constitution in a letter to President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga which could signal a strengthening of the relationship between the two countries.

The American President described the successful referendum as “a proud moment in Kenya’s history” and said he hoped it would help strengthen democratic institutions and boost reconciliation efforts.

He urged the President and Prime Minister to work together in the process of implementation, saying the US would be a “committed friend and partner in this effort”.

President Obama’s letter is the latest sign that the relationship between Kenya and major Western powers, which was tense following the botched 2007 General Election, could be about to improve significantly.

The August 4 referendum, which saw voters overwhelmingly endorse the new constitution, earned Kenya positive headlines around the world.

The constitution was seen as the most crucial item in the reform agenda crafted in 2008 to attempt to halt the nation’s cyclical bouts of ethnic fighting.

In June, US Vice-President Joe Biden said a new constitution would lead to a more stable Kenya which would, in turn, make it easier for the country to benefit from significant US grants and investments.

One of the programmes Kenya is expected to be eligible for is the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA).

The account is an American-sponsored bilateral fund which offers support to countries that are judged on a number of indicators including efforts to tackle corruption.

In 2008, Tanzania benefited from a $698m (Sh55.8b) award.