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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Kenya Goes to the Polls

Preliminary results released today in Kenya show that the country seems set to make a historic decision. It is replacing its old British colonial era with a new draft. The constitution currently in use in the country was drawn up in 1963 paving the way for Kenyan independence from the British colonial powers.

Supporters of the new constitution claim that it will dramatically reduce the powers of the President and make him more accountable to the people. This is an important amendment given the violence that erupted following the disputed results of the 2007 election. Then, ethnically fueled violence resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 citizens. The stories of the atrocities make for some harrowing reading.

The Christian Churches were the major groups in opposition of the draft constitution stating that it provides "abortion on tap". The provisions of the constitution state that life does in fact begin at conception but allows for abortion in emergency situations. The main Catholic and Anglican churches also objected to the enshrining in the constitution of Islamic courts. The fact that the largely Christian country (88%) ignored the advise of their Church is quite interesting.

The new constitution also brings in much needed land reform and lays down a bill of rights for all Kenyans. It also allows for the first time allows for dual citizenship, welcomed by the large Kenyan diaspora in many African nations.

Overall it seems there is widespread support and happiness across the country. The test now is to make sure the horrific scenes of 2007 aren't repeated and that the result is respected before the Government even begins to consider the widespread reform needed to implement a new constitution. Kenya still has a long journey  to make.

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