August 6, 2010
Kenyans Approve New Constitution
Kenyans voted overwhelmingly (67 percent in favor, with 72 percent turnout) this week to adopt a new Constitution, touted aggressively by nearly everyone from Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki to President Obama. (The "nearly" is important; see below.) By reports, the referendum and its aftermath were peaceful. The NYT has its story here and an inspiring set of pictures here.
The new Constitution--weighing in at 179 pages--reins in historically expansive (and abusive) presidential power through separation of powers and checks and balances (among other features, such as constitutionally imposed government ethics standards, an independent electoral commission, and a progressive bill of rights). It also includes much needed land reform.
Two provisions were particularly controversial (outside Kenya, if not within). One established Muslim courts for family disputes; the other seemed to liberalize access to abortion. The latter provision is causing the Obama administration a minor headache with some in Congress who object to the administration's support for the new Constitution. (There appears to be no development in a requested USAID IG investigation into the matter, but we'll stay on top of it.)
President Kibaki's statement on the vote is here; the Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation reports here; AllAfrica.com has a opinion piece here, with links on the site to other reports and resources; the BBC reports here.
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