Throbbing with excitement and buoyed by a resolution to accept or the reject Wako Draft, Kenyans turned up in hundreds of thousands for their first and fabulously peaceful referendum. There was jubilation at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre as results of the just ended referendum poll were announced. According to the results received by 3pm on November, 22, 2005 the Orange team beat the Banana team getting 58% of the votes (3,548,477) compared to 41% (2, 532,918) of the Banana.
Earlier, queues across the country were long but the determination of the voters was unbreakable as they moved to the booths to immortalize their stand on the draft constitution after 15 years of haggling and frustrating search for a new constitution.
The process was blissful unlike past elections characterized by abrasive chants and mob fights. Both the Banana team that is supporting the Proposed New Constitution and the Orange that rejected it exuded confidence they would each win but maintained they would accept the results.
President Kibaki - cast his marked ballot paper into the Electoral Commission Kenya's black box at Munaini Primary School in his Othaya Constituency. The President, who on Sunday went on live television to express his confidence in the draft, arrived at the school accompanied by First Lady Lucy Kibaki, members of his immediate family and escorted by Central Provincial Commissioner Peter Raburu.
Kibaki’s government has been under heavy criticism for taking sides, using government resources to secure a YES vote in the referendum, arbitrarily creating public institutions and administrative regions without proper planning and converting State House into a marketplace of tribal interests.
Orange leaders - Roads Minister Raila Odinga and Kanu chairman Uhuru Kenyatta also led their supporters in voting against the proposed constitution. Raila, accompanied by his wife Ida, arrived at the Old Kibera Primary School to a rousing reception by Orange supporters Uhuru dropped his vote in the box at Mutomo Primary School in his Gatundu South Constituency.
The Government on its website reported observers from the Commonwealth, European Union, the East African Commission and other organizations monitored the vote. A spokesman for the American Embassy separately reported his country deployed 42 observers to various areas.
Retired President Moi who cast his lot at Lena Moi Primary School in Tandui, Baringo Central expressed regret and sadness upon seeing “nationalism has sunk down the pit." He said that national unity should be upheld. Voting is easy. The harder part is how maturely leaders will behave.
Some leaders hinted that they would converge in Uhuru Park to either celebrate their victory or map out strategies, should they lose. The Commissioner of Police, Major General Hussein Ali Mohammed has outlawed any gatherings or street protests after the results are announced.
Now that the historic day has ended, the country can do with some sobriety and calm. For the interest of peace and stability, the leaders must steer clear from whipping up emotions on the verdict, urge for calm and appropriately lead their followers in accepting the outcome.
Accepting defeat, President Kibaki said he would respect the people’s decision. Kalonzo Musyoka, an Orange luminary called for national healing.
The rest of the world is waiting to see how Kenya handles this critical period in its history. The prophets of doom have already started predicting chaos, saying that Kenya will never be the same again.
But they should be proved wrong as Kenyans maintain peace throughout and get back to developing the nation and living in harmony.
Kenyans have exercised their democratic right of voting on the Draft Constitution. It is now for the leaders to propel them forward and keep their covenant with them.
By Josephat Juma
Mr. Juma is an African Executive Writer
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