news: KENYA

New constitution rejected

VOTERS IN Kenya appear to have emphatically rejected a proposed new constitution, partial results show. Early returns from half the votes counted, put the “No” campaign in the lead by a margin of 15 per cent.

Kenya’s basic law has not been re-written since receiving its independence from the UK in 1963. President Mwai Kibaki has promised a new constitution since 2002 but the drafting process has seen many delays. This new constitution will ban foreign land ownership, with the formation of a land commission so individuals can no longer distribute land. Regional parties will be banned and elections for local officials will take place.

Christian and other religious courts are planned, there will be a ban on same-sex marriages, abortion will be outlawed and there will also be greater rights for women.

The President backed the charter, but his cabinet was split, with seven ministers joining with the opposition, urging voters to reject the constitution, giving the new office more power.

If the result is confirmed, it could cause huge political difficulties for Kibaki and will be seen as a protest vote against him, ahead of general elections due in 2007.