Kenyans head to the polls Wednesday to vote in a referendum that will determine the East African nation’s future: whether it will accept a constitution that will open the door to expanding legal abortion, or reject it and draft a new constitution that conforms more to the nation’s pro-life values.
Despite an aggressive grassroots campaign by an ecumenical grand alliance of the nation’s Christian churches, polls show that Kenyans will likely vote to approve the draft constitution on Wednesday.
Bloomberg news reports that a poll released by TNS Research International suggests Kenyans will vote 68 percent to 25 percent to approve the new constitution. The pollster interviewed 1600 individuals selected at random from Kenya’s eight provinces between July 23-25; the poll has a margin of error of 2.45 percent.
Strategic Research, another polling firm, found that 66 percent of Kenyans would vote “yes” in the referendum, while 20 percent would vote “no.” The group, which polled 2400 Kenyans selected at random between July 26-28, said their findings showed those pushing for a “yes” vote have a majority in every one of Kenya’s provinces.
Nevertheless, Kenya’s Christian leaders have been waging a hard-fought underdog campaign, having been outspent by their own as well as the U.S. government, and largely snubbed by Kenyan media.
But Marie Smith, Director of the U.S. Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues, which has been following the Kenyan churches’ campaign efforts, told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) that the outcome of the referendum is not a done deal, as it has been represented in Kenya’s press.
“It’s not over til it’s over, and we won’t know when it’s over for a couple days,” said Smith, explaining that the Kenyan government will have to hand-count many ballots as well as process electronic ballots in some areas.
“The press has totally shut out the ‘no’ campaign,” said Smith, a fact that she said has made it difficult to get a trustworthy picture about where exactly Kenyans stand on the constitution.
While Kenyan news sources made a big deal over the conservative American Center for Law and Justice offering $10,000 to the “no” effort in Kenya, they have paid far less attention to the Obama administration’s $23 million dollar “education effort” in Kenya through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
This effort, which includes pay-offs to advocacy groups in Kenya lobbying for the constitution’s approval, has prompted a sharp rebuke from several U.S. Congressmen, who have called into question the legality of the Obama Administration’s involvement in the Kenya referendum. The congressmen have cited a U.S. statute, the Siljander Amendment, that forbids USAID funding efforts overseas that lobby for or against abortion.
Article 26 of the proposed constitution would broadly permit abortion if the “health of the mother is in danger,” “or if permitted by any other written law.”
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said on Friday the U.S. ought to have a “narrow role” in the August 4 referendum, to help guarantee a fair, free, and non-violent process. Instead, he said, the Obama Administration has committed the U.S. to “take sides by supporting, facilitating and funding projects designed to identify and motivate votes.”
“And because the proposed constitution significantly alters existing abortion law in Kenya, expending U.S. taxpayer funds used in support of the ‘Yes’ campaign is also illegal,” affirmed Smith.
“This Administration appears to have disregarded current law and is instead advocating for the ratification of a proposed constitution in Kenya that will expand access to abortion,” said Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Penn.).
But whatever the outcome of the referendum, the “No” effort has done much to develop an unprecedented level of cooperation among Christian churches in Kenya, forging a new bond in defense of life.
Church leaders from different churches gathered last Friday at the Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi for an event hosted by John Cardinal Njue, the Catholic primate of Kenya. The various churches signed a document signifying their unified opposition to the draft constitution, as well as their intention to trust in Divine Providence, and to pray for a peaceful resolution, no matter which way the constitution is decided.
“We the Christian shepherds in Kenya reiterate our advice to all Kenyans to reject this proposed constitution in its entirety,” said the document, signed by 30 churches. “It is true that there are many positive improvements in the proposed draft, but the good has been mixed with evil sections that affect the moral life and rights of this country in irreversible and fundamental ways. The proposed constitution does not safeguard the sacredness of human life, the sound and moral education of our children and religious equality.”