Kenyan Constitutional Referendum (2010)
A Kenyan Constitutional Referendum was held on August 4, for the voters in the country of Kenya.
Kenyan voters approved the new constitution. In the first peaceful election since 2007, international observers stated that the election went well and is considered valid.
The reformed constitutional package proposed was a large step in changing the imbalance of power that is present in the state and officials hope will lead to further peace and reform in the country. Western governments, including the United States and Europe have been pushing this reform package, hoping violence seen in 2007 will not occur. A contentious issue that has sparked debate from the American Christians organization is the portion of the constitution that deals with recognizing Islamic courts in the country and abortion rights and issues. Currently it is illegal to obtain or perform an abortion in the country, some say the new constitution would further tighten those restrictions, others say the constitution would provide less restrictive rules. The US Embassy has been accused by Congress members for openly supporting the abortion restrictions. The abortion issues has been growing and while other issues in the reform package may be seen as more important, some see the abortion issue as a common one that others can rally behind regardless of their true intentions. The pro life opposition continues to grow, the largest group behind voting No on the constitution. They are campaigning to inform voters while the government is doing the say but hoping for Yes votes. The main concern against the abortion language is that it does not address Kenyan women's needs and would allow any health professional to determine if an abortion would be allowed for health reasons.
The government is now denying allegations that a printing error on the draft of the constitution was their fault. The words 'national security' showed up in a few copies and the government denied the allegation that they put it there on purpose. Officials came out stating that these few documents with the extra words are not what the parliament approved so it is not what Kenyans will be voting on August 4. Government officials noted that dissenters were the likely group behind the wrong constitutions in an effort to force the referendum vote not to be held. Police officials are looking in to who is behind the fraudulent constitutions.
The most important thing the government wants to convey with this referendum is that it is a new start for many Kenyan people, a real chance for them to enact changes in their government and approve a constitution that would be better to help and aid. Kenyan presidents before have continued the tradition of the colonial constitution, this new one would be a break from the past and a start on a new path for many.
Prisoners in Kenyan prisons were now advocating for the right to cast their ballot in August. The current constitution disqualifies prisoners from voting in Presidential, parliamentary and civic elections, but they were arguing that this referendum did not fall under those previously set categories. There will be more cost for the government to incur since the prisoners won, they will have to register them and issue them ballot cards. This issue was decided in court, prisoners will be given the right to vote during the referendum. This led to a large upset in the Kenyan government, many voiced their opinions that it was unclear if the government would be able to accommodate all the prisoners. There were also voiced fears that the vote would not go on as scheduled, but the election chief of the country has come out stating that the vote will proceed as planned and will not be delayed.
The new issue to arise is the lack of funding provided to the government for the election by the Ministry of Finance. The government is now try to appeal to the Finance Ministry through the parliament to allot the needed funds to allow for a workable referendum vote. Without the entire amount stated, they note that the election will not be able to be held. The election commission has asked for around $56 million to conduct the election but were only given $31 million. Some have seen the Finance Ministry's unwillingness to give he needed money as a way for them to control the election. But recent EU envoys to Kenya have noted that they feel the country is ready for the election and will be capable to hold it in a fair and transparent manner. The envoy was also encouraging citizens to vote and that he hoped for a peaceful election no matter the outcome.
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- Earth Times, "EU hails 'landmark' Kenyan constitution vote," August 5, 2010
- The New York Times, "Kenyan Constitution Opens New Front in Culture Wars," May 13, 2010
- Life News, "Pro-Life Opposition Growing to Kenya Constitution Allowing Unlimited Abortions," May 27, 2010
- Daily Nation, "Govt not behind printing error: PM," May 16, 2010
- Business Daily, "Referendum Offers Kenyans Chance to Break With the Past," May 31, 2010
- Business Daily, "Prisoners push for right to vote in constitution referendum," May 31, 2010
- VOA News, "Kenyan Electoral Chief Promises No Delay in Referendum," June 25, 2010
- VOA News, "Kenyan Official Warns Lack of Funding Threatens Referendum," July 5, 2010
- News Time Africa, "EU satisfied with Kenya’s arrangements for referendum," July 28, 2010