NAIROBI, Kenya, AP -Kenyans rejected a draft constitution supported by their president, electoral officials said Tuesday, capping months of bitter divisions that broke out in the run-up to the country”s first referendum since its 1963 independence.
Six of Kenya”s eight provinces rejected the constitution, according to partial figures released by electoral officials, and opponents of the proposed charter began celebrating in the streets of Kenya”s capital, Nairobi.
"We are leading by more than a million votes now that more than 75 percent of the votes have been counted. The lead in insurmountable," Mutula Kilonzo, a leading opponent, told The Associated Press.
But the head of the pro-charter campaign refused to concede defeat. "Not yet," Titus Mbathi said.
Electoral Commission spokesman Mani Lemaiyan said preliminary results showed that the charter had been voted down. He said he would not provide figures until all certified results had been brought to electoral headquarters.
The country has 11.6 million registered voters in a population of 34 million. Turnout figures were not immediately available, Lemaiyan said.
The county was voting on a draft constitution that President Mwai Kibaki has said was designed to curb decades of abuse of power. But opponents said it would further entrench the president”s powers. The constitution would have also increased human rights guarantees and would have decentralized the government.
Preliminary results showed that Kenyans generally voted along tribal lines. Opponents of the charter had accused the president”s allies of hijacking the constitution-writing process and putting into the draft some provisions that appeared to favor their tribal interests.
Members of Kibaki”s Kikuyu tribe, Kenya”s largest, and the Meru and Embu communities of his key allies voted strongly in favor of the draft. But those from the leading critics of the charter — including the Luo, Luhya, Kalenjin, and coastal tribes — rejected it.
"The ”no” vote does not mean that Kenyans do not want a new constitution. It means that they did not want what had been proposed in the current draft," said Patrick Lumumba, secretary of the autonomous commission that has been steering the review of Kenya”s post-independence charter.
Kenyans voted Monday at more than 19,000 polling stations across the country, in the country”s first referendum since independence from Britain. They cast ballots marked with a banana for "yes" and an orange for "no." A third of Kenyan adults cannot read.
Public rejection of the draft charter could undermine Kibaki and his allies. The next general elections are scheduled for 2007.
On Monday, Jack Tumwa, a member of the Electoral Commission, said it had received some reports of vote buying. Police spokesman Jaspher Ombati said in a statement late Monday that 20 people had been arrested in connection with various electoral offenses.
Violence marred the campaigning in the run-up to the vote. At least seven people were killed in rallies ahead of the referendum.