Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Constitution Vote - Violence in Kenya?


Just heard from Julia who is working at an orphanage in Kisumu. She and two other students will be flown back to Nairobi today due to expected violence over the Constitution vote next Tuesday Nov 21. So what is this all about?

Well, Kenya received it's independence from Great Britain in 1963. And, for the first time since then they are voting on a referendum on a new constitution. The current constitution has been revised several times resulting in a state in which the President has sweeping powers. The new constitution supposedly cuts the powers of the President partly by creating a Prime Minister position.

One of the problems in Kenya is that one third of the adults can't read. So referendum campaigns are organized around symbols, bananas for 'yes' and oranges for 'no'. As usual for Africa, the political situation has resulted in polarization around tribal loyalties. The government is leading a 'yes' campaign while the opposition party wants 'no'. Currently the 'no's' seem to be ahead by about 10%.

There has already been violence in Kenya with fires set and about 8 people killed. However, now there is a rumor that 'yes' party people are being trained by ex-servicemen 'to cause chaos' at the vote.

St. Lawrence is taking no chances and is flying the students in Kisumu back to the compound in Karen.

1 comment:

Brian said...

It's ironic that a country with a long tradition of an authoritarian Big Man presidency (Kenyatta, Moi) would be on the path to rejecting a plan to decentralize power a little bit.

It's further ironic that the coalition in power wants to decentralize power while the opposition wants to keep a strong presidency. Usually it's the contrary.