In Kenya, just like in the rest of Africa, politics is a big deal; never mind that most of the people when asked where most of the country’s stem from will always blame it on the politicians who have come to earn new monikers like MPigs and Politrickians. When it was announced that Kenya was on the doorstep of achieving a new constitution, people were glad. Would it signal the end of a painful process that had begun more than 20 years ago or it would mark another election that would later lead to polarization among the citizens? This would not be the first time that Kenyans would be voting over a referendum and more so a constitutional referendum. In 2005, they had gone to the polls over a document that had been nick-named the Bomas Draft after the hall where most of the talks were taking place. This was a process that was later claimed to have been hijacked by the politicians when they went for a retreat to the sea-side resort town of Kilifi. The Attorney General (AG), Amos Wako, was accused of having hijacked it all.
Thus it was no surprise that the document, that many had hopes for, failed miserably at the polls. Many felt that it did not represent any of their views especially on the issue of two centres of power; the President and a Prime Minister. It also lead to a major fallout in the government of the time that had been formed when the country’s two leading politicians in the lead-up to the 2002 nationwide elections joined forces to present a force. Mwai Kibaki, as the President at the time was on the YES team while his comrade Raila Odinga, later Kenya’s 2nd Prime Minister, was on the NO side. The YES team lost and it later lead to the forming of an opposition unit by Raila Odinga. These two units were what contested the 2007 elections that would later turn violent and bloody.
The elections were disputed by everyone with both teams complaining of rigging attempts by the others. This later went out into the streets after the head of Kenya’s electoral body at the time delayed in announcing the results. From the streets, everything turned violent and chaotic.He later announced Kibaki as the winner of the polls from an unidentified place where only the national broadcaster was carrying the feed. Kibaki would later be sworn in at night. The chaos later spread to the farms and also the countryside. Houses were burnt and farms, with food crops on them, torched. Families were hacked to death and neighbours fought against each other. For a whole month, there was violence in most of Kenya. Negotiations which required former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, to fly in severally lead to a coalition government with Mwai Kibaki as the President and Raila Odinga as the Prime Minister. One of the recommendations made was that there should be a process initiated to let Kenyans have a new constitution since the violence was partially to blame on an out-dated constitution.
But the process had started much earlier in the late 1980s and early 1990s when “dissidents” wanted a return to multi-party democracy under former President Daniel Arap Moi’s one-party regime. This agitation had lead to the Bomas talks which took quite a long time only for the draft to be opposed at the polls.
With such a shaky past, now it was another turns for Kenyans to make a decision and make their future brighter, either by rejecting or accepting a new constitution. Immediately after the 2007 election fiasco, a new electoral body was set-up although it was on an interim basis. It was tested via several by-elections and most people felt it would be up to the task, if and when the referendum came. The process of collecting views was marred by controversy after controversy with members of the civil society, the clergy and the politicians all clashing about one thing or the other. But after while things cooled down and the team was able to collect views from members of the public popularly referred to as Wanjiku. These views would then be coalesced to form a document which the politicians, in their usual greed or eagerness to be part of history, tried to hijack.
They were kept on toes and would later present to the public a document that was both reasonable and unreasonable. As with every constitution, people would never get to agree on some clauses at once but the committee mandated with the task of compiling the document felt their job was done and it would now be up to Kenyans to exercise their right to vote. Camps for and against the constitution had already airing their views. The electoral body decided to hold a referendum on the 4th of August and it also announced the symbols that were to be used for either yes or no. NO would be red while YES would be green.
Then the campaigns hit off whereby the majority of the Christian clergy, some members of the civil society and some politicians were in the NO team whereas the others would be in the YES team. Most notably in this camp were the Muslim clerics. The discussion point around the draft constitution was the issue of Kadhi’s court, the abortion clause and the issue of land. The other points also featured but were not that prominent or never even generated enough heat. The Christian clergy were opposed to the Kadhi’s courts and the issue of abortion while majority of the on the NO team politicians were against the land clause. The campaigns got quite muddy to the point of a rally being bombed.