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Kenya Referendum (Nov 2005): The Verdict on the Draft Constitution Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Martin Tairo, Kenya Nov 24, 2005
Human Rights   Opinions


With the completion of the much-awaited referendum process, it is time for Kenyans to sit back and reflect on the tides and turns, examine the effect of their decision to reject the draft, and in consultation with their leaders, chant their way forward toward the realization of their dream to have a new people-driven constitution for the country written by the people themselves.

The journey has for sure been long and rough. As a result of the misrule that governed the country for many years, Kenyans cried fowl and demanded that the constitution be amended. Their dream was to have a president who had limited power and proper checks were to be put in place to realize this. The clamor was not just to check the presidency. They demanded a constitution that distributed resources equally to all parts of the country, that protected ownership of land, that provided for their basic human rights, one that guaranteed women a position in the society. All Kenyans wanted was a constitution for the people, and more, one done by the people themselves.

The sitting government gave in and initiated the people driven process of rewriting the constitution. Views were collected from all and sundry. The young and old, educated and illiterate, sick and healthy, those in the country and abroad- all were given the opportunity to state what they wanted in their constitution. Views which were put together by constitutional experts and brought forward for discussion by a smaller conference that constituted people from all corners of the country. This is where hell broke loose and politicians came in. Two camps emerged, one for the ruling elite and the other for the opposition.

The ruling elite camp supported a government system which had a powerful president arguing that many centers of power were a recipe of civil war. They wanted the government to control all the national resources and be responsible for all the finances generated from all sectors of the country’s economy.

Their view was not taken kindly by the opposition. They vouched for the exact opposite. A ceremonial president with a very powerful parliamentary system led by a prime minister who will automatically be the leader of the majority party in parliament. They wanted resources devolved down to where they were generated to help the local communities. They argued that when resources were distributed from the national arena, only those in the good books of the ruling elite would carry the day and reap the most benefits. This view, coincidentally, was held by the majority of Kenyans.

The tug of war then ensued. Members from both camps initially engaged in consensus talks that yielded no fruit. They turned to blackmail and insults. Those in government threatened their colleagues with different views of dire consequences. There was shifting of alliances from micro factions in parliament. Claims of bribes to members of parliament filled the air. The war was fuelled by the announcement of the date for the referendum by the Electoral Commission of Kenya. Members of parliament swung into full campaign action totally overshadowing the civic education process that was supposed to enlighten Kenyans on the contents of the draft constitution that they were putting to vote during the referendum. Both camps interpreted the document in a manner that suited their views leading to a lot of propaganda talk. Even the vice president was quoted saying that voting down the draft constitution meant ‘no confidence’ with the president hereby taking issues completely put of context.

Finally, the day came. November 21, 2005 was the day that Kenyans went out to decide. They came out in their large numbers and peacefully cast their ballot. As I write this article, I am proud being Kenyan. I went out and cast my own vote and as the prophets of doom predicted, there was absolutely no violence. Kenyans conducted themselves in levels of maturity that are characteristics of very stable democracies. We have set a very high standard for other African countries, standards which my take ages for them to reach.

And the verdict was clear, Kenyans rejected the draft constitution with a convincing margin. With voter a turnout of slightly over 55%, 60% of them rejected the draft, sealing the process that had cost the country over Kshs 10 Billion ($140 Million). Talking to a section of Kenyans, they don’t regret the position they took and feel that the money lost in the process is no match for the loss that would have sufficed had the draft constitution been passed.

That is their verdict.



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Writer Profile
Martin Tairo

As a very creative Architecture student at the University of Nairobi, i have had lots of interests in many forms of arts. These include performing arts, writing and drawing.

I have written many articles on issues ranging from humour, politics, religion and even the most controversial topics like human rights and abortion.
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