Cablegate: Kenya Constitution: Violence Mars the Yes Campaign
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NAIROBI 003863
LONDON AND PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM PINS PHUM KE
SUBJECT: KENYA CONSTITUTION: VIOLENCE MARS THE YES CAMPAIGN
REF: A. (A) NAIROBI 3847
B. (B) NAIROBI 3499
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Supporters of the proposed constitution
launched their "Yes" campaign with three planned rallies
September 16-18. As violence marred several pro-draft
events, the message from both sides of the debate shifted to
denounce violence and stress the importance of preventing the
debate from escalating into inter-ethnic conflict. However,
ethnicity increasingly appears to be one of the fault lines
in the campaign process. END SUMMARY.
PLAYING TO THE CROWD...WHAT CROWD?
2. (SBU) The pro-draft constitution ("Yes") campaign kicked
off September 16 before an audience of approximately 300
Maasai and bused-in supporters in the southern town of
Kajiado, the first in a weekend-long series of planned
events. The rally came two days after Electoral Commission
of Kenya (ECK) Chairman Samuel Kivuitu called for a temporary
halt to campaigning (ref A). Despite the songs about bananas
(symbol of the "Yes" vote), on-stage banana eating, and a
banana giveaway, the audience was rather passive and
unenthusiastic. (NOTE: Residents of the Kajiado area are not
expected to be pro-draft, making it a surprising choice for a
kick-off event. END NOTE.) The rally was generally peaceful,
apart from some rough police crowd-control during
distribution of copies of the proposed draft. Even the small
contingent of orange-waving (the symbol of the "No" campaign)
draft opponents arrayed along the main road out of Kajiado
let the departing ministers pass without incident.
3. (U) The event, hosted by Education Minister Saitoti, was
conducted almost entirely in Kiswahili with occasional
attempts to use the Maasai language to appeal to the Maasai
present. Included in the audience were local school
children, one of whom told PolOff that she had been given
time off from class to attend the rally, adding that the
school did not observe the same policy for the "No" rally
previously held in the same town.
SOME SUBSTANCE, SOME POLITICS
4. (U) The day's speakers, which included Vice President
Awori and five cabinet ministers, encouraged careful
examination of the provisions of the draft ("scrutinize it
like the Bible", said Internal Security Minister Michuki),
participation in civic education programs, and separation of
politics from the constitutional debate. Water Resources
Minister Martha Karua highlighted some of the differences
between the Bomas-approved draft and the current one,
including the provision for a Prime Minister (Kenya cannot
have a PM more powerful than the President, she said).
Karua's choice of transportation for the day, a GOK
helicopter, was in glaring contrast to Assistant Minister for
Justice and Constitutional Affairs Njeru Githae's pledge
during the rally that the "Yes" campaign would raise its own
funds and not use GOK resources.
VIOLENCE PLAGUES THE "YES" CAMPAIGN
5. (U) A second "Yes" rally planned for Saturday in Garissa,
in Kenya's North Eastern Province was canceled after
high-ranking campaigners were pelted with stones and oranges
by opponents to the draft constitution. Disturbances
similarly marred other "Yes" gatherings in Mombasa on the
coast and Kitui in the west of Rift Valley Province. Members
of the "Yes" camp accused Raila Odinga and former President
Moi of encouraging violence among their supporters to
undermine the government. However, Odinga subsequently
called for the "Yes" campaign to be allowed to conduct their
activities without harassment, noting that violence could be
used as an excuse to delay the referendum.
6. (SBU) The message predominating a September 18 "Yes"
rally was one of reconciliation and unity. During the Sunday
rally, held in the outskirts of Nairobi at Banana Hill,
speakers repeatedly cautioned against violence and stressed
the need to prevent the animosity surrounding the referendum
from dividing Kenyans. Vice President Awori shared his
recent visit to genocide sites in Rwanda to serve as a
warning to Kenyans not to allow divisions over the draft
constitution to promote tribalism or to escalate into
inter-ethnic violence. The Banana Hill rally was
well-attended by the majority Kikuyu community, with many in
the crowd enthusiastically supporting the "Yes" vote.
7. (SBU) COMMENT: The "Yes" campaign appears to be off to a
rocky start given its lukewarm reception in Kajiado and
violent opposition in Garissa and elsewhere. By contrast,
the crowds in Banana Hill were warmly receptive to the "Yes"
campaign's message. The draft constitution has been
portrayed in local media as a "pro-Kikuyu" document, which
might explain the different receptions. Some Kikuyus are
concerned about this portrayal, which could deepen existing
mistrust among Kenya's ethnic groups. Despite speakers'
calls to avoid tribalism, divisions between "Yes" and "No"
supporters increasingly fall out along ethnic lines. The
exception to this may come in a week, when Uhuru Kenyatta is
slated to take his portion of the "No" campaign into the
Kikuyu heartland. END COMMENT.