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Kenyan constitutional referendum, 2010

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Kenyan constitutional referendum, 2010

Kenyan constitutional referendum, 2010
Do you approve the proposed new Constitution?
Swahili: Je, unaikubali katiba mpya inayopendekezwa?
Yes or no Votes Percentage
Yes 6,092,593 68.55%
No 2,795,059 31.45%
Valid votes 8,887,652 100%
Invalid or blank votes 0 0%
Total votes 8,887,652 100.00%
Voter turnout 70.44%
Electorate 12,616,627
Referendum held: 4 August 2010
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Foreign relations

A constitutional referendum was held in Kenya on 4 August 2010[1][2] The plebiscite was on whether to adopt a proposed new constitution passed by the Kenyan parliament on 1 April 2010. The new constitution was seen as a vital step to avoid a repetition of the violent outbursts after the 2007 presidential election.[3]

The result was a victory for the "Yes" campaign, with official figures released by the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) showing 66.9% in favour, with the results counted in all 210 constituencies.[4] The "No" campaign's main spokesman, Higher Education Minister William Ruto, conceded defeat.[5] The new constitution was planned come into force within 14 days of the results being published and would then be ushered in through a series of Acts of Parliament.[6] Abdikadir Mohammed was placed in charge of the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee by MPs.[7]


The Constitution of Kenya, established upon independence, was amended severally, including in 1982 likely resulting in, among other things, a coup attempt. The amendment saw the addition of a section 2A to the constitution, making Kenya a single-party state under President Daniel arap Moi. Following protests in the late 1980s, section 2A was repealed in 1991, establishing the multi-party state, and the Constitution has existed unmodified since then.[8] Although this was seen as a step forward, the country retained a reputation for corruption and many Kenyans desired a completely revised document. This came a step closer to reality in 1998 when a law was passed in parliament calling for a review of the constitution.[9] However, little was done to effect this during the remaining years of Moi's administration. In the run-up to his victory in the 2002 general election, president Mwai Kibaki had made constitutional reform and the anti-corruption drive a key priority.[10] Despite promises to conduct a review early in the parliament, the new government continued to drag its feet. This was due mainly to the presence of senior officials from the previous regime, whose defection had been vital to Kibaki's election success, but who were ultimately unwilling to risk upsetting the status quo.[11] Eventually, in 2004, a proposed new constitution known as the Bomas draft was released. This proposed wide-reaching changes to the structure of government, including the transfer of some powers from the president to a newly created post of prime minister.[12] Fearing the loss of power, senior government figures watered down the Bomas draft, leading to widespread opposition, civil unrest and the resignation of several senior members of Kibaki's coalition.[12] The revised document was presented to the people in the November 2005 constitutional referendum, and was defeated.[11] Following the referendum, the politicians that had campaigned against the draft united to form a new party in opposition, known as the Orange Democratic Movement, after the symbol of an orange, which had been present on the referendum ballot papers to signify a "no" vote. Despite splits, the party appeared to be in a strong position going into the 2007 presidential election, but was ultimately defeated in controversial circumstances, leading to the violence of the 2007–2008 Kenyan crisis.[3] The peace deal that ended the crisis mandated that the constitutional question be revisited, which led in November 2009 to a new draft. After minor modifications and the passage of the draft through parliament, the referendum date was set for 4 August 2010.[13]


The referendum question was announced on 13 May 2010:

Do you approve the proposed new Constitution?
Swahili: Je, unaikubali katiba mpya inayopendekezwa?

Voter's choices in response to this question were "Yes" or "No". Due to high rates of illiteracy in the country, the law required that each response was accompanied by a visual symbol to ensure voters were aware of which choice they were making.[14] The symbols chosen for this referendum were colours: green for "Yes" and red for "No."[15]

To be passed, the referendum required a simple majority over-all and at least 25% of votes in five of Kenya's eight provinces.[16]


Most senior figures in the coalition government were supporters of the "Yes" campaign, including President Mwai Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and both deputy Prime Ministers, Musalia Mudavadi and Uhuru Kenyatta.[17] The notable exceptions to this were Minister for Higher Education, William Ruto and Minister for Information, Samuel Poghisio, who led the "No" campaign along with former president Daniel arap Moi. These politicians felt the new law would not be good for Kenyans, arguing that the President would still retain excessive powers and that the provisions on land ownership were anti-capitalist.[18]

The other major source of opposition to the constitution came from the Christian churches, who feared it would lead to the legalisation of abortion, due to a clause permitting abortion for maternal health reasons. The other clause considered contentious by the church was the inclusion of Kadhi courts for settling some civil issues relating to Muslim citizens. Although these courts have been present since pre-colonial times, they were not previously enshrined in the Constitution.[19]


The run-up to the referendum was largely peaceful, although there were isolated incidents of violence, such as when six people were killed and many more injured in June 2010, in a bomb attack on a rally for the "No" campaign in Nairobi.[20]


Opinion polls taken between April and July 2010 showed a consistent lead for the "Yes" campaign, with support ranging between 49% and 64%, compared to a range of 17% — 22% for the "No" campaign.[21][22][23][24][25][26]

Poll Date Yes No Undecided
24 April 2010[21] 64% 17% 19%
29 May 2010[22] 63% 21% 16%
4 June 2010[23] 57% 20% 19%
7 July 2010[24] 49% 22% 22%
16 July 2010[25] 62% 20% 18%
23 July 2010[26] 58% 22% 17%


Results by Province

1. Central
2. Coast
3. Eastern
4. Nairobi

5. North Eastern
6. Nyanza
7. Rift Valley
8. Western

The vote took place amid tight security to avoid a repeat of the previous elections' aftermath. There were particular worries in the Rift Valley Province, where tensions between Kalenjin and Kikuyu populations had caused the worst of the 2007 violence. The vote eventually passed off peacefully, with no reports of violence.[27]

The result was a victory for the "Yes" campaign, with 66.9% in favour, versus 30.7% for "No" on a turnout of 72.2%.[4] Most areas of the country voted in favour of the Constitution, with the notable exception of the Rift Valley Province, where the majority of voters followed the advice of local leaders William Ruto and Daniel arap Moi in voting against.[28] The only area that failed to vote overwhelmingly as predicted was the Ukambani area of the lower Eastern Province, where the "Yes" camp recorded only a very narrow victory despite support from local leaders Kalonzo Musyoka and Charity Ngilu.[29]



Kenyan constitutional referendum, 2010[4]
Choice Votes %
Referendum passed Yes 6,092,593 68.55
No 2,795,059 31.45
Valid votes 8,887,652 97.60
Invalid or blank votes 218,633 2.40
Total votes 9,106,285 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 12,616,627 72.18

Provincial results

Province YES YES % NO NO% Total Valid Votes Invalid Votes Total Votes Registered Voters Voter Turnout
Central 1,274,967 84.4% 235,588 15.6% 1,510,555 29,692 1,540,247 1,958,898 78.6%
Coast 425,626 79.24% 111,532 20.76% 537,158 16,388 553,546 997,086 55.5%
Eastern 741,109 56.43% 572,109 43.57% 1,313,218 32,480 1,345,698 2,028,444 66.3%
Nairobi 678,621 76.52% 208,195 23.48% 886,816 29,298 916,114 1,292,229 70.9%
North Eastern 110,992 95.71% 4,970 4.29% 115,962 599 116,561 231,928 50.3%
Nyanza 1,174,033 92.04% 101,491 7.96% 1,275,524 20,257 1,295,781 1,705,292 76.0%
Rift Valley 971,331 40.52% 1,426,102 59.48% 2,397,433 65,447 2,462,880 3,046,294 80.8%
Western 715,914 84.13% 135,072 15.87% 850,986 24,472 875,458 1,356,456 64.5%
Total 6,092,593 68.55% 2,795,059 31.45% 8,887,652 218,633 9,106,285 12,616,627 72.2%

Reaction and aftermath

The result was generally welcomed by the international community, with messages of congratulations to the government and people of Kenya from, amongst others, US President Barack Obama, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the leaders of other African Great Lakes nations.[30]

As required by the law mandating the referendum, the new Constitution was formally promulgated in a ceremony on 27th August 2010 by President Kibaki. This historic occasion was attended by foreign leaders and dignitaries from Africa and all over the world.[31]


  1. ^ "Kenya referendum date set", Daily Nation, 14 May 2010
  2. ^ "Kenya votes in referendum on new constitution", BBC, 4 August 2010
  3. ^ a b The Earthtimes (3 April 2010). "US: Kenya needs unified effort behind draft constitution | Earth Times News". Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  4. ^ a b c Interim Independent Electoral Commission of Kenya (IIEC) (6 August 2010). "Kenya referendum results". Capital FM. Retrieved 7 August 2010. 
  5. ^ Gekara, Emeka-Mayaka; Menya, Walter; Wanja, Joy (5 August 2010). No' camp concedes referendum defeat"'". Daily Nation. 
  6. ^ Onyango, Jim (6 August 2010). "Parliament faces tough test in enacting laws to guide implementation". Business Daily. 
  7. ^ Kagiri Anthony (13 October 2010). accessdate=15 October 2010 "He steered law review, now it's implementation". Capital News. 
  8. ^ Firestone p31
  9. ^ Firestone p32
  10. ^ "'"Kenyan opposition 'to fight corruption. BBC News. 23 October 2002. 
  11. ^ a b Firestone p33
  12. ^ a b Matheson, Ishbel (22 July 2005). "Kenya's fight for a constitution". BBC News. 
  13. ^ Kariui, Anthony (14 May 2010). "Kenya referendum date set". Daily Nation. 
  14. ^ Ngirachu, John (14 May 2010). "Symbols for referendum out next week". Daily Nation. 
  15. ^ Mathenge, Oliver (17 May 2010). "Kenya referendum: Its Green vs Red". Daily Nation. 
  16. ^ Gettleman, Jeffrey (4 August 2010). "New Constitution Nears Approval in Kenya".  
  17. ^ Barasa, Lucas (28 June 2010). Yes' camp unveils its plan for poll victory"'". Daily Nation. 
  18. ^ Odunga, Dennis (19 April 2010). "Draft law bad for Kenyans, says Ruto". Daily Nation. 
  19. ^ Ross, Will (3 August 2008). "Kenyan referendum vote brings out fruity colours". BBC. Retrieved 2010-08-04. 
  20. ^ Stack, Liam (14 June 2010). "Kenya bomb attacks kill six at constitution rally". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2010-07-15. 
  21. ^ a b 64pc Kenyans say Yes: Synovate poll Capital FM (Poll by Synovate Research)
  22. ^ a b Kadhi ruling will not affect Kenya referendum vote-poll Daily Nation (Poll by Infotrak Harris)
  23. ^ a b Poll: Support for new Kenya law drops to 57pc Daily Nation (Poll by Synovate Research)
  24. ^ a b Annan: What 'Yes' team must do for clear win The Standard (Report by Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation Monitoring Project)
  25. ^ a b 62pc Kenyans want Yes: Poll Capital FM
  26. ^ a b Support for Kenya new law drops to 58pc Daily Nation
  27. ^ "Kenya's Rift Valley relieved, anxieties remain". Reuters Africa. 6 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  28. ^ "Ministers fail to deliver 'Yes' victory in Rift". Daily Nation. 5 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  29. ^ Odalo, Bob (5 August 2010). "‘No’ results shock VP, Ngilu in Ukambani". Daily Nation. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  30. ^ Namunane, Bernard (6 August 2010). "Kibaki to sign new laws amid pomp and fanfare". Daily Nation. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  31. ^ BBC News - Kenya president ratifies new constitution

Further reading

  • Firestone, Matthew (2009). Kenya. Lonely Planet Publications.  

External links

  • Uchaguzi: Kenya Decides – crowdsourced updates as vote takes place.
  • Referendum website
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