News / Africa

Campaigns Close Ahead of Kenyan Referendum

Michael Onyiego

Campaigns for and against a new Kenyan constitution have come to a close as the country prepares for the pivotal referendum on Wednesday.  It was a sprint to the finish Monday after two months of fierce advocacy as officials from the "Yes" and "No" teams held rallies across Kenya on the final day of campaigning.

The "Yes" team was led by President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who spoke to voters in Kitui, in Eastern Province, and Kiambu, near Nairobi, urging them to approve the proposed constitution Wednesday at the ballot box.  The "No" team, meanwhile, focused on the coast, holding a rally in the port city of Mombasa where Higher Education Minister William Ruto told voters to reject the document.

The referendum could end nearly 20 years of waiting for a new constitution.  The current constitution has been in place since Kenya gained independence from Britain in 1963. Supporters of the new document argue the current set of laws are antiquated and inhibit reform.

While recent polls show that more than 60 percent of Kenyans support a change, controversial clauses in the new document have split voters.  Chief among the "No" Group concerns are clauses over abortion and land. Christian groups and politicians alike have blasted the document, telling voters that the new constitution would make abortions legal.   But organizations such as the Kenya Medical Association have hit back, saying the "No" team has mislead voters. KMA explained that the proposed constitution disallows abortion, except when approved by a medical professional to save a mother's life.

The proposed land policy has also provoked anger in Kenya's Rift Valley.  The new constitution limits the length of title deeds and gives the government greater control over land use.  The "No" campaign has warned supporters that this new policy will allow government to steal private land, a charge refuted by the President Kibaki and the "Yes" team.

The campaign process has attracted as much controversy as the issues in recent weeks.  In early July, Kenya's head of Civil Service, Francis Muthaura, allowed civil servants to return to their communities to campaign for the referendum.  While Muthaura did not specify which campaign to join, officials such as Ruto said the order was a violation of the Public Officers and Ethics act and an attempt by the government to rig the vote.

The United States also has been ensnared by election controversy.  President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have publicly declared their support for the new constitution, and Ambassador Michael Ranneberger has urged Kenya to pass the new laws.

"Putting in place a new constitution really is key to the entire agenda to reform Kenya and to bring about fundamental change," said Ranneberger.  "The other reforms, police reform, judicial reform, ending the culture of impunity, ending negative ethnicity, can't really come about unless this new constitution is put in place."

But "No" camp officials have accused Ranneberger of bias, saying the U.S. has used aid funding to unfairly skew the process.  Members of the United States House of Representatives have also entered the fray, accusing President Obama of using taxpayer money to support abortion.

The ambassador has denied these charges, saying all funding for the referendum process was aimed at civic education rather than lobbying for a particular side.  

The final gambit came last week as the "Yes" team booked every major event venue in Nairobi for the last four days of campaigning, a tactic frequently employed by political parties in the 1990s.  Despite complaints, the "No" campaign was effectively shut out of the capital.

All voices are now silent as Kenyans reflect on the arguments ahead of Wednesday's vote.  Despite their differences, both campaigns called for peace during the voting process and many are hopeful the country can avoid the violence that has plagued Kenya's democracy in the past.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs