President Mwai Kibaki and the head of Kenya’s electoral commission said on Tuesday that the body does not expect a repeat of the violence that followed December 2007’s presidential elections as the nation votes on a new constitution. The referendum on the new constitution is the first national vote since more than 1,300 people died in the tribal clashes that followed the disputed elections.
Kibaki said that the country ‘is greater than everyone else and Kenyans should turn up and vote after that, move on together…’ The President, who was first elected on a reform platform in 2002, has been campaigning for the endorsement of the proposed constitution.
It is anticipated that the President will address his people in a live broadcast where he is largely expected to emphasise the benefits of a peaceful election. ‘In terms of security … we expect to have a peaceful referendum,’ Ahmad Issack Hassan, Chairman of the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC), told journalists in Nairobi. ‘Kenyans have learned a lesson. We have gone to the brink … almost to a civil war,’ he added. ‘We want to prove to ourselves and the world we can hold a peaceful referendum, which will be free and fair’.
The new constitution is part of a reform process aimed at preventing more violence at the next presidential elections, set for 2012. ‘We will hand in the results less than twenty four hours after the polling stations close Wednesday evening,’ said the chairman.
On matters concerning security, Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere confirmed that he had dispatched 18, 000 additional police officers to areas identified as hotspots ahead of the ballot on a new constitution. Kenya is sending the bulk of extra police officers to the Rift Valley, home of the largest concentration of Kenyans planning to vote against the constitution and the site of some of the worst attacks in 2007-08.
Today (August 4th) around 12million Kenyans queued to take part in a referendum on a historic new constitution. Security was tight, particularly in the Rift Valley area, which was the epicentre of the violence that followed the disputed and chaotic election of 2007. So despite voter turnout being high there were few problems.
“Overall we are encouraged by the prevailing situation, said Ndung’u Wainaina, the executive director of the Nairobi-based International Centre for Policy and Conflict. “It seems democracy and tolerance is starting to take root.”
President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who so bitterly contested the election nearly three years ago, have united behind the “yes” campaign. Opinion polls suggest that the majority of voters are on their side.