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Kenyan Constitutional Referendum Stirs Debate

Kenya’s proposed constitutional referendum will be held as planned this coming Monday, following a ruling by a constitutional court yesterday. The court ruled that stopping the referendum would be tantamount to challenging the people’s right to write a constitution.

Waihenya Waiphaka is the opinion editor of the East African Standard. From Nairobi, he told English to Africa reporter James Butty that the court’s verdict means the referendum is legal. A group of Kenyan cabinet ministers, the so-called Orange group, led by Roads Minister Raila Odinga, had asked the court to reject the referendum. Mr. Waiphaka says the whole debate is no longer about the constitution. Instead, Mr. Waiphaka notes that those who are opposed to a referendum on the constitution are the same people who have been opposed to the Kibaki government all along; despite the fact they themselves are in government.

Mr. Waiphaka says Monday’s referendum is going to be either for or against the government. He says President Kibaki’s government will be a bit weakened if the referendum does not pass Monday. But even then, Mr. Waiphaka says President Kibaki may not be a big loser because Kenyans can still fall back on their old constitution. On the other hand, he says if the Orange group fails to win the no vote, a major cabinet reshuffle can be expected, as about eight of the ministers who led the Orange group may be dismissed from the government.