Kenyans vote in referendum for new constitution; one injured in minor clashes |

Kenyans vote in referendum for new constitution; one injured in minor clashes

NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenyans voted Monday whether to approve a new constitution in a referendum officials said went relatively smoothly, despite minor clashes in Nairobi’s largest slum and allegations of vote buying.The draft charter had bitterly divided the nation and caused pre-election violence that killed seven people, leading election officials to deploy riot police to various parts of the country for the vote, including Nairobi’s sprawling Kibera slum.Kibera residents angry over the presence of the police chased officers out of the slum and attacked a truck driver they thought was ferrying stuffed ballot boxes. The man suffered minor wounds, but there were no immediate reports of other clashes in the country.Jack Tumwa, a member of the Electoral Commission of Kenya, said officials received some reports of vote bribery, but he declined to say what action was taken.Police spokesman Jaspher Ombati said in a statement late Monday that 20 people had been arrested in connection with different election offenses and police were continuing investigations.In a country where a third of the citizens can’t read, voters marked a banana for a “yes” vote and an orange for “no” vote.Opponents of the constitution won two out of the first three constituencies announced late Monday, according to first provisional results announced by the chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya. Another 207 constituencies still have to report their results.Both supporters and opponents of the proposed charter agree that Kenya needs a new constitution to curb decades of abuse of power by its leaders. But they have disagreed on its contents.Critics argue it fails to curb presidential powers because it rejects proposals to share the executive authority between the head of state, vice president, prime minister, the Cabinet and regional governments.Some are also opposed to a provision that gives women the right to inherit family land, which critics say goes against the practices of some tribes.Supporters say the charter introduces land reforms, including banning foreigners from owning land and reducing the term for which foreigners can lease land – from 999 years to 99 years.While waiting in line to vote, Wilson Kamita said he would support the new constitution because it has provisions that would benefit the interests of both the young and the old, and even has clauses to protect the environment.”We have struggled for many years for a new constitution, and this is it,” the 55-year-old electrician said.In parts of western and eastern Kenya, supporters of the constitution reportedly paid people to vote for the charter, said Koki Muli, spokeswoman for local election observers. A reporter for the independent Kenya Television Network also witnessed the vote-buying.There were other reports of voting irregularities.In Nairobi, hundreds were turned away from polling stations because their names were missing from the voters’ roll or they were listed as dead. Electoral Commission spokesman Mani Lemaiyan said some of those people had registered more than once and had been stricken from the register.Public rejection of the new charter – the first since Kenya won independence from Britain in 1963 – would undermine President Mwai Kibaki and allies who supported the draft. The next general elections are scheduled for 2007.Kibaki was elected in 2002 on a platform of fighting corruption, reforming the government, curbing unemployment and improving conditions for Kenyans. Many believe he has failed to deliver on those promises.Kibaki, however, said on the eve of the vote that the proposed charter would lay the foundation for change.Kenyans cast their ballots at more than 19,000 polling stations across the country. The country has about 11.6 million registered voters, out of a population of 34 million.Vail, Colorado

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