On August 4th, a referendum will be held in Kenya to approve or disapprove of the new proposed constitution. The draft was passed in parliament in April but Kenyan citizens will decide whether to formerly adopt this new legislation on Wednesday.

“Yes” and “No” campaigns have been going strong for the past few months and tomorrow citizens will solidify their voice. Current polls have “Yes” campaigns leading by more than half.

Copies of the proposed constitution are available at the Daraja Academy library and the academy hopes to hold a school-wide debate this Wednesday in light of the vote.  A follow-up blog post will include report on the debate and student perspectives on this exciting time in Kenyan history.

Facts about the proposed constitution:

  • The proposed constitution will significantly reduce powers of the Kenyan president and create greater balance among the different branches of government
  • Voters will have the ability to recall MPs if they are not performing their job adequately.
  • A land commission would be created and any land illegally acquired could be repossessed. Land owned by foreigners will have leases limited to 99 years.
  • Key members of the “Yes” campaign: Current President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga
  • Key members of the “No” campaign: Minister for Higher Education William Ruto, former president Daniel arap Moi, most Church leaders and numerous parliament members
  • Controversial issues include:
    • Abortion clause: Current legality of abortion does not change but opponents argue that the abortion clause in the constitution provides a loophole for the future.
    • Inclusion of Kadhi family courts: The Muslim courts have been in place since independence. The constitution would continue to recognize the Kadhi courts despite a recent court case that ruled the courts discriminatory, in a case brought by Christian churches.
    • The Land clause: Any type of land policies has a tendency to ignite ethnic rivalries over land disputes.

United States Involvement:

  • According to a report by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the United States has spent an estimated $23 million toward the referendum
  • US Vice President Joe Biden visited Kenya in June specifically to urge Kenyans to vote and to emphasize the power of economic change this new legislation could bring:
    • “Putting in place a new constitution, strengthening democracy and the rule of law will further open up doors for more American programs which will bring about more investments.”
    • Because the constitution would greatly limit those currently in power, the authenticity of support from top government officials has been questioned. But accordi