Referendum opponents seek peace in Kenya


NAIROBI - As Kenyans go to the polls today, tension was still reported high in parts of Rift Valley, Nairobi and Western Kenya areas considered to be “hot spots” of possible eruptions of violence. However, the team opposed to the draft Constitution led by Bishop Mark Kariuki of Deliverance Church Kenya and Higher Education Minister William Ruto and their opponents are now speaking in one voice; Kenyans “vote Peace” and “Vote No to violence”.

As the two groups speak peace, the United Nations has placed over 50 peace monitors in violent hot spots to supplement the already deployed government peace monitoring security forces ahead of the referendum vote.

Julia Albert-Recht of the UN Volunteer Programme Office, while speaking at a United Nations Development Programme media workshop in the lake city of Kisumu, said her team will be engaged in helping to monitor and track down those engaged in hate speech and incitement.

Speaking in the coast city of Mombasa, the “Reds” - those opposed to the draft constitution - called on Kenya’s Interim Independent Electoral Commission to ensure the poll was free and fair.

The “Greens” - those supporting the draft constitution - led by President Mwai Kibaki and Premier Raila Ondinga while speaking during their last day of campaigns called on all Kenyans to vote peacefully and accept the result of the outcome.

The latest development has raised hopes to many Kenyans who have been concerned by the “hard tackling” between top politicians lately.

Kenya has had a cyclical tendency of violence during general elections, and this has caused concerns among many as the latest debate on the draft constitution seem to have divided the nation more than ever before.

The latest dimension in the division is the religious angle, which Kenya has never witnessed.

This division has come up with the Christians opposed to the draft Constitution for a number of reasons, including clauses that provide for abortion and sectarian discrimination that they claim favors Islam.

The Church has remained defiant in its rejection of the proposed constitution as Muslims leaders pushed for the adoption of the document. Muslim leaders have repeatedly vowed to mobilize their followers to vote for the document saying it is good for Islam and the nation.

The Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) Secretary general Adan Wachu says his council has unanimously resolved to back the proposed constitution.

Christian leaders have argued that the only religion mentioned in the document was Islam and that Kenya is a secular state therefore no religion be elevated above the other.

They have argued further that some provisions in the document earlier were that religion should be separate from the government which they allege were deleted in favor of Islam.

Africa, PoliticsChris Khisa