Kenya pledges to fund referendum

20:22, July 08, 2010      

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The Kenyan government on Thursday pledged to fund the forthcoming referendum on the proposed constitution which will be held next month.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo told journalists after a crisis meeting between the government, Parliament and the Interim Independent Electoral Commission in Nairobi that Treasury will release the funds required for the plebiscite thus ending uncertainty on the fate of the exercise.

"Nobody should worry. We have agreed that whatever is required is going to be availed," Kilonzo told journalists after the meeting. "I want to assure Kenyans that they will be enough money for the referendum. The technical teams are now meeting to work out on the modalities as we have agreed that all the money needed will be made available."

The minister said the meeting between ministry of finance officials, IIEC as well as members of the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs resolved that the referendum should be given priority to ensure it goes on as planned.

According to Kilonzo, the meeting resolved that technocrats from the Treasury, the Justice ministry and the IIEC would hold a session later on Thursday to finalize details of the total amount to be made available and where to get it.

"We got an absolute undertaking that the August 4 referendum will take place and the resources will be available," said the PSC chairman Abdikadir Mohammed.

Mohammed said that it was important that the matter be finalized in order to cool apprehension that had generated from the revelation that the electoral body did not have enough money.

He added that it was imperative for all the institutions spearheading reforms to be well funded.

Early this week, IIEC chairman Ahmed Issack expressed concern over the failure by Treasury to release the funds saying they had requested 4.6 billion shillings (about 57 million dollars) and were given a paltry 2.6 billion shillings (32 million dollars).

Issack said that much of the money allocated for the referendum had been used to finance parliamentary by election and the registration of prisoners.

He said that while the commission had procured all the materials needed for the referendum, the money allocated could not cater for all the logistics and personnel.

He also indicated that the commission needs 200,000 clerks to man the 31,000 polling stations in the country. He added that money was also needed for the transportation of the staff and materials to be used during the referendum.

Kenya's constitution goes back to its independence in 1963, and it has been criticized for creating an imperial-like presidency with dangerously sweeping powers.

The proposed constitution significantly trims those powers and enhances individual rights.

The main objections to the new constitution are the perception that it is softer on abortion -- the new constitution keeps it illegal and defines life as beginning at conception, but allows abortion under certain circumstances -- and that it recognizes traditional Islamic courts for family law and inheritance matters.

Several prominent Kenyan Christian leaders have urged their supporters to vote the constitution down, though most recent polls indicate that it will pass.

The adoption of a new constitution was a key element of a power- sharing deal brokered by former UN chief Kofi Annan that ended the post-election violence that killed 1,300 Kenyans and displaced another 650,000 others.

The last constitutional referendum in 2005 ended with the defeat of the government-backed "yes" camp, prompting President Mwai Kibaki to dissolve the cabinet and rename a fresh one without the ministers who opposed it.

Leaders of the two emerging camps - Kibaki and then opposition leader Raila Odinga - ran for the presidency in 2007 elections, whose disputed result sparked Kenya's worst post-independence violence which claimed some 1,300 lives.

Odinga accused his rival of election malpractices. A power- sharing deal brokered by former UN chief Kofi Annan made Odinga the premier and Kibaki retained his post.

Also in the agreement was an undertaking to make institutional and legal reforms, which included a new constitution to avoid fresh unrest.

Source: Xinhua


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