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Friday, July 3, 2020
NAIROBI, Nov 22 2005 (IPS) - Kenyans have decisively rejected a proposed constitution that was put to a referendum.
A dejected President Mwai Kibaki said in a televised address Tuesday, “This is a giant step towards enhancing democracy. My government will respect the verdict of the people.”
Kenyans have decisively rejected a proposed constitution that was put to a referendum on Monday.
According to figures released by the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK), 3,548,477 people voted against the new constitution (57 percent of those who cast ballots), while 2,532, 918 came out in favour of it.
“This vote has clearly shown that many Kenyans have rejected the proposed constitution,” a dejected President Mwai Kibaki said in a televised address Tuesday. “This is a giant step towards enhancing democracy. My government will respect the verdict of the people.”
Kibaki and his National Alliance Party of Kenya (NAK) had pushed for approval of the constitution, prompting a split in the ruling National Rainbow Coalition. Roads and Public Works Minister Raila Odinga, head of the Liberal Democratic Party, lobbied for a “no” vote in Monday’s poll – teaming up with the opposition Kenya African National Union to convince citizens to reject the document.
Those supporting the constitution adopted the banana as their symbol, while those opposed to it used the orange – this to assist illiterate Kenyans to cast their votes.
This earlier version is referred to as the ‘Bomas draft’, in reference to ‘Bomas of Kenya’: a cultural venue on the outskirts of the capital, Nairobi. Here, the National Constitutional Conference – comprising delegates from government and civil society – held talks during 2003 and 2004 on what form the country’s new constitution should take.
Their talks followed nation-wide consultations by the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission, appointed in 2000 to gather the views of Kenyans on what measures they wished to see in their new constitution. The commission reported that citizens wanted a reduction in presidential power, apparently in reaction to abuses under former heads of state Daniel arap Moi and Jomo Kenyatta.
The version of the constitution that was put to voters Monday emerged in July this year when NAK parliamentarians changed the Bomas draft to maintain strong presidential powers – and to stipulate a non-executive prime minister who would be appointed by the head of state.
Monday’s vote took placed largely without incident, in marked contrast to the campaign for the referendum, which claimed eight lives.
Only one outbreak of violence occurred, in Kibera – said to be Africa’s largest slum – located in Nairobi. Chaos erupted in the Langata constituency of this settlement when a group of youths pelted a truck driver with stones on the suspicion that he was trying to rig the vote. This came after the driver defied orders to show what was in his truck when he was entering a polling station.
Almost 20,000 local and 150 foreign observers – and close to 60,000 security personnel – were on hand to monitor the historic exercise, which saw long queues of voters brave the morning chill to congregate at polling stations before they opened at 07.00 local time.
“I came here to vote and I believe my vote will have an impact to this process. I, with my two small children, were here by five a.m,” Florence Makokha, a voter at Nairobi’s Embakasi constituency, told IPS.
Certain irregularities were reported, such as names being absent from registers or appearing twice. Many people arrived at polling stations with passports rather than national identity cards, as required, but were later allowed to vote.
With Kenyans having rejected the proposed constitution, the country’s colonial-era constitution will remain in force until such time as a decision is made about embarking on another constitutional review process.
During the announcement of referendum results at Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi, ECK Chairman Samuel Kivuitu warned citizens against allowing constitutional review to be put on the backburner.
“It is imperative that we continue to strive for a better constitution, one that seeks to unite us, one that recognises that the power to govern rests on the people.” he noted, amid wild cheers from hundreds opposed to the constitution who had gathered at the centre to witness the official announcement of results.
Kibaki initially promised to have a new constitution in place within a hundred days of assuming office at the end of 2002. Almost three years later, Kenyans are still waiting.
Irrespective of what occurs on the constitutional front, however, speculation is already rife that the outcome of Monday’s vote will lead to changes in government – particularly with elections looming in 2007.
NAIROBI, Nov 22 2005 (IPS) - Kenyans have decisively rejected a proposed constitution that was put to a referendum on Monday.
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