Kenya delivers peaceful referendum vote


NAIROBI - Contrary to fears by many, Kenyans went to the referendum poll peacefully and endorsed a new constitution by 5.9 million votes for against 2.6 millions votes against the new document. Immediately after the announcement of the poll results by the Interim Independent Electoral Commission, the opponents of the document led by the Secretary General of the National Council of Churches of Kenya Rev. Peter Karanja accepted the results.

Rev. Karanja accepted the result of the vote as Kenyans verdict and said his team will immediately embark on their quest to have the contentious clauses in the new constitution amended as soon as possible.

Higher Education Minister William Ruto who teamed up with the religious leaders while conceding defeat, said the, “we will now go ahead with the amendments as agreed with our opponents who argued that we pass the document and make amendments later”.

More than 522 independent local and foreign observed who were deployed countrywide described the voting process as democratic, free and fair.

Speaking to the media in Nairobi, a council member of the Law Society of Kenya, Lilian Anyango said the observers who undertook a parallel tallying process returned a 67.52 per cent for the new document and 30.35 per cent for those voted against the new constitution. Anyango said the result was more or less the same as that of the IIEC, with some negligible variance.

The fierce opponents severally expressed their satisfaction on how the poll was conducted peacefully by Kenyans. Areas where tension was reported high in parts of Rift Valley, Nairobi and Western Kenya before, during and after the voting remained calm, and no ugly incident was reported.

As the religious leaders spoke to the press in Nairobi, Head of Deliverance Church Kenya Bishop Mark Kariuki, who was one of the leading lights in the anti-draft constitution movement, said their opponents won due to the over use of government resources in support the document.

Bishop Kariuki called on the government to keep its promise of addressing the contentious issues in the new constitution as agreed earlier.

The two top Kenya political leaders President Mwai Kibaki and Premier Raila Ondinga, who gave a joint press conference in Nairobi Thursday, promised to work with their referendum opponents in the implementation of the new laws.

All Kenyans - and the region as a whole - breathed a sigh of relief to after the vote went off exceptionally peacefully, with Kenyans turning out at a rate between 80 -87 per cent to participate.

Kenya registered about 12 million voters and nearly 9 million voters cast a vote in the referendum that has ushered in a new constitution, which should be fully implemented in the next five years, according to the National Accord's Agenda IV.

Tensions were earlier reported as “hot spots” against backdrop of cyclical violence that has afflicted many of Kenya’s past General Elections. The situation this year raised profound concerns among observers because the debate on the draft constitution had deeply polarized Kenyans.

Christian leaders had been opposed to the new constitution on moral grounds while those politicians teaming up with them were opposed to clauses on land and decentralized government among others issues.

The Christians say the new constitution favored Islam against other religions in Kenya, and Christian leaders insist the government has to take a leading role to rectify this anomaly in the country’s laws for posterity.

Africa, PoliticsChris Khisa