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Gunmen in Kenya Kill Delegate to Meeting

September 15, 2003

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ Gunmen burst into the home of a senior delegate to a constitutional convention and shot him to death, sparking allegations that political forces are trying to undermine an effort to overhaul Kenya’s system of government.

Crispin Odhiambo-Mbai, the chairman of a key committee of that is helping to revise the constitution, was killed by three men who forced their way into his home Sunday, said Police Commissioner Edward Nyaseda.

The motive for the killing was not immediately known, and authorities urged people not to speculate about it. But the slaying increased tensions among the 600-member convention that has struggled for the last five months to agree on wide-ranging reforms.

Police used tear gas to disperse University of Nairobi students who stopped traffic in downtown Nairobi to protest Odhiambo-Mbai’s death. Similar demonstrations were reported in western Kenya, the delegate’s home region.

The shooting ``poisoned an already-poisoned atmosphere,″ said Kathurima M’Inoti, another delegate to the National Constitutional Conference, which has haggling over changes to a charter drafted by a government-appointed commission.

``I don’t think it is a good environment for this constitution to be revised,″ M’Inoti said.

The proposed reforms include the creation of a prime minister and changes to the president’s powers; the reintroduction of an upper house of parliament; and a restructuring of the judiciary. The effort has drawn opposition from some political and business leaders.

A few delegates have reported death threats, but officials and delegates declined to provide details until the attorney general has investigated, said Patrick Lumumba, secretary of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission, which worked on the draft constitution.

Lumumba said he had received at least five threats by phone in the past week telling him to go slow on the constitutional review process.

``I’m one who, while appreciating the more-than-coincidental happenings of the last week, would wait for investigations to give us a clear picture,″ he said.

Within the governing National Rainbow Coalition there have been disagreements over Cabinet positions since it won power on a reform platform in December elections that ended the 39-year rule of the Kenya African National Union party.

These tensions spilled over into the constitutional conference, forcing President Mwai Kibaki to form a Cabinet subcommittee to help resolve differences among senior members of his administration, mainly over whether Kenya should have both a president and prime minister.

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