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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Kivuiti tells Government Not to Say Yes...or NO...

From the Daily Nation....

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

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Don't take sides, poll chief warns the State

Story by NATION Team
Publication Date: 9/7/2005

The Government should not campaign for either a Yes or No vote in the forthcoming referendum on the new Constitution otherwise it will be fraudulent, the head of the Electoral Commission said yesterday.

Mr Samuel Kivuitu
If that happened, the referendum would not be seen as free and fair and the outcome would not reflect the proper view of the majority of Kenyans, chairman Samuel Kivuitu told the BBC.

Asked to comment on the fact that President Kibaki had already indicated he would campaign for a Yes vote, Mr Kivuitu said the Head of State was just an individual, and that if he did not involve the Government, that would be a different matter.

But pressed on the point that the President had already declared his support for a Yes vote, he replied:

"Go and interview him first because he has not done it. Let us wait until he does it."

He continued: "This country has a weakness. When a President says this and he goes out to campaign, all the chiefs will come there in uniform. Everybody will come there in uniforms, salute and therefore influence everybody."

He said: "And I hope the President will be able to see this light because it is very important for us to allow people to vote freely otherwise the whole exercise will be fraudulent."

He gave the interview as President Kibaki said for a second time that he would not mind whatever the outcome of the vote. The President told leaders meeting in Makueni District, "I am not shaken: I don't fear anything."

He first commented that he did not mind whichever way the vote during his visit to Mwingi last week.

Mr Kibaki said yesterday it was up to Kenyans to decide which way to vote during the referendum and added: "There is no need to lead somebody and think he doesn't know how to decide."

Mr Kivuitu's interview by the BBC came a day after announcing the referendum date would be on November 21. He said it would be a tragedy if the Government were seen to be taking sides.

"Our biggest concern is government appearing to be doing a campaign for one side because if it does so the whole of this is just a tragedy... just a farce," he said.

The elections chief said nobody could compete with the Government because they had all the machinery.

"Let the people decide and that is the way it is. This is their Constitution and it is not a government constitution and everybody is, or will be, bound by it, however big he is," he added.

Mr Kivuitu said his experience as a politician in the last 10 years showed him that people were swayed to one side when they realised the Government was involved.

He said people normally feared they would be denied services or development benefits by the Government if they voted against it.

Mr Kivuitu told BBC: "You just have got to stand up and walk around, being driven with 20 cars, flags, and what do you and people think if they do not vote that way? They will not get food; they will never get water, CDF (the Constituency Development Fund) is gone; we know... we've been living in this country; we know."

The latest development came as the Yes and No campaigners prepared to start canvassing nationwide.

The campaigners for both sides went out to begin popularising their symbols for canvassing, which Mr Kivuitu released on Monday. Yes will be represented by a banana, while No will be an orange.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Kiraitu Murungi held a meeting with Ford Kenya MPs only a day after they met President Kibaki in State House, Nairobi, to firm up their strategies for a Yes vote.

The one-hour meeting was held at the Continental House office of Ford Kenya chairman Musikari Kombo.

At the same venue in Continental House, the No camp was holding a similar meeting with Roads and Public Works minister Raila Odinga, ahead of today's launch in Machakos of the campaign against the Constitution Bill.

The committee of eight MPs from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Kanu was planning for today's meeting and other plans to start the first phase that will end on September 18, said Kanu secretary-general William Ruto.

But their camp suffered a blow when five MPs declared they would support the Yes campaign.

The Kanu MPs from upper Eastern province were: Mr Guracha Galgalo (Moyale), Mr Abdi Sasura (Saku), Mr Mohamed Kuti (Isiolo North), Mr Abdi Bahari (Isiolo South) and Mr Titus Ngoyoni (Laisamis).

Speaking in Mbooni, President Kibaki said the Government was doing everything possible to ensure the 4 million copies of the Constitution Bill it printed were distributed to all Kenyans to read and understand before voting. "Those who will listen to lies and do otherwise will have themselves to blame," he said.

He added however that he knew Kenyans were intelligent and would make informed decisions during the referendum.

President Kibaki drew laughter when he asked the crowd, at Mbooni Girls Secondary School: "Do you know about bananas? I know you are able to say 'This is a banana and this is an orange'."

He said every Kenyan knew what was good for the country and should use his or her brains to decide.

When he asked the leaders whether they had received copies of the new Constitution, they said No.

Nominated MP Adelina Mwau called for a Yes vote, saying the Bill provided for affirmative action for women and recognised the marginalised.

Kilome MP Mutinda Mutiso called for people to be educated about the proposed Constitution so that they could decide for themselves whether to vote Yes or No.

Assistant minister Kivutha Kibwana said Ukambani people played a key role in the Constitution review and should vote Yes. He named Archbishop Ndingi mwana a'Nzeki, the Rev Mutava Musyimi, Kibwezi MP Kalembe Ndile, Mr Kilonzo and himself as among those who had a major share in the process.

Kathiani MP Kyalo Kaindi said people in Ukambani and pastoralists should vote Yes following the planned revival of the Kenya Meat Commission.

Kenyatta University chancellor Harry Mule said he had read the economic aspects of the Constitution and found it to be good. "It's economically efficient; bad things could be removed later," he said.

Central Bank of Kenya governor Andrew Mulie, invited the President, "to come and eat bananas together with us as there are many here."

Reports by Lucas Baraza, Bob Odalo, David Mugonyi and Muchiri Gitonga