AFRICA/KENYA - Over 12 million Kenyans to vote tomorrow in referendum on new Constitution

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Nairobi (Agenzia Fides) – Over 12 and a half million Kenyans will hit the polls tomorrow, August 4, to vote on the referendum on the new constitution. The text submitted to popular opinion calls for restrictions on presidential powers, handing over various powers previously attributed to the central government to the regional government, and the creation of a Senate with slightly lesser powers of supervision and coordination than those of the Chamber of Deputies.
The new Constitution has been met with opposition from the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations as it includes a clause that is regarded as an initial step towards the legalization of abortion because it shifts the beginning of life from conception to birth, and another that recognizes the Muslim civil courts, the “Kadhi Courts.” Even Education Minister William Ruto and former President Daniel Arap Moi are opposed to the new constitutional text. President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, however, support the new text.
Christian leaders, who led an ecumenical prayer on July 30 (see Fides 30/07/2010), have appealed to the nation, asking them to vote “no.” The Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, Peter Karanja said: "The Constitution has many good things, but the good is mixed with the evil that may influence the moral life and rights of this country in its foundations." This position was reiterated by Cardinal John Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi, who in opening the ecumenical prayer service said: "There have been improvements in the draft constitution, but the good has been mixed with some bad points that affect the moral life and rights. There are people who think that only a small percentage of the draft constitution is bad. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Evil, no matter how small it is, is like a bad yeast that transforms and corrupts the entire dough from within."
Over 63,000 security agents across the country were mobilized to ensure safety, particularly in the Rift Valley, where the greatest number of deaths occurred in 2008 as a result of post-election violence. The UN has sent 50 observers to monitor the conduct of the vote in the “hot-spot” areas of the country. Observers will also be particularly attentive that there are not people who will incite hatred. It has also created a center to verify that messages sent via SMS do not contain incitement to violence. In the crisis of 2008, several text messages were sent inciting violence. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 3/8/2010)