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Polls Show Majority of Kenyans Do Not Favor Draft Constitution

An opinion poll released Friday shows that the majority of Kenyans are not in favor of a government-sponsored draft constitution. Many Kenyans have still not decided how they will vote.

The poll by The Steadman Group shows that a plurality (42 percent) of those polled indicated that they would vote against the draft constitution while 32 percent indicated the would vote for the document.

George Waititu, group managing director of The Steadman Group, says a large a percentage of those polled are still undecided, and they will be key to the constitution's success.

"Our poll revealed 22 percent of those who are registered voters have not decided yet how to vote. Another 32 per cent indicated they will vote yes. Forty-two percent indicated they would vote no," he said.

The poll showed that most of those who said they would vote no believed that the document was bad and would not be easy to alter later.

Mr. Waititu says most of those who were undecided mentioned lack of information as the main reason for their indecision.

"Eighty-three percent of the undecided indicated that they are not decided because they do not have enough information," he added. " So there is quite a lot of work to do there on civic education and I think the political leadership also has to do a lot of work to specifically inform."

Kenyans vote in a referendum on the new constitution on November 21. It is the first complete rewriting of the charter since Kenya won its independence from Britain in 1963.

Opponents say the new constitution fails to create a strong prime ministerial post, and thus is unlikely to curb the sweeping powers of the president.

Even President Mwai Kibaki's cabinet is divided on its merits. Besides supporters and opponents, a third group in the cabinet is pushing for the postponement of the referendum to allow more debate and consensus.

The campaign for the referendum officially began Friday, but the unofficial campaign has long been under way and been marked by frequent violence.

Kenya's League of Women voters brought voters from all over the country to Nairobi to discuss the draft constitution.

Irene Oloo is chair of the league of Kenya women voters. She says Kenyan women may vote against the draft constitution because it does not articulate their rights fully.

"There are so many over-riding contradictions in this draft. The bill of rights it is a beautiful bill of rights, in fact one of the best but if you go into the constitution itself there are a lot of over-riding contradictions," she explained. "If I give you an example you talk about culture and Christian courts we are talking about courts that we know very well the cultural court in the African setting if it is a very key aspect in the constitution women will not be able to get their rights and use the bill of rights as their key rock."

Ms. Oloo says the league of women voters recognizes the positive aspects of the draft but would not urge its members to vote for it unless the flaws are corrected.