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Cablegate: Kenya's Constitutional Referendum: Orange

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: President Kibaki acknowledged the
defeat of the proposed new constitution at mid-
afternoon November 22, with the "no" vote decisively
ahead in Kenya's constitutional referendum. "No"
supporters had already been celebrating their not-yet-
official victory. The Electoral Commission of Kenya
confirmed the result a few minutes later, followed by
an Orange ("no") press conference. The results are
clearly a rebuke to the President, who was strongly
behind the proposed constitution, and his government.
It is also a rebuke of the "Big Man" presidential
concept, and of a perceived attempt by the Kikuyu
ethnic group to achieve hegemonic power. END

2. (U) At 1500 hours local time on November 22, with
the vast majority of the votes counted, President
Kibaki made a short statement in Kiswahili conceding
the defeat of the proposed new constitution in the
previous day's national referendum. The concession
seemed inevitable, as the Orange or "no" vote had
gained "an unassailable lead" of around a million
votes by morning. Shortly after the President's
speech, the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK)
confirmed the results, announcing that 2,523,918
"yes" votes versus 3,548,477 "no" votes had been
counted (this is 58 percent versus 42 percent of the
counted "yes" and "no" votes). (Of provinces, only
the (mostly Kikuyu) Central Province of Kenya's eight
provinces delivered a "banana" or "yes" vote.) The
ECK noted that while a few of Kenya's 210
constituencies had not been able to vote or had not
yet reported their results, the additional votes
could not affect the outcome.

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3. (U) At the "Orange" press conference that followed
the ECK announcement, the LDP's Raila Odinga spoke
briefly, then handed the floor to KANU's Uhuru
Kenyatta. Uhuru said Kenyans have shown they do not
want an imperial presidency, but accountable
leadership. He said the "no" vote was despite the
"illegal" use of state power and resources by the
other camp. Kenya has rejected the politics of
"sycophancy and dictatorship," he said. Kenyatta
appealed to Central Province to "reject leadership
that isolates you," and invited the Banana team to
work with the Orange team on constitutional reform.
He also invited all Kenyans, of every persuasion, to
come to Uhuru Park November 26 for prayers and
thanksgiving. Odinga then asked a bishop present to
offer prayer for "those killed in cold blood by
brutal security services."

4. (U) "Orange" supporters have been shown dancing
and celebrating in the streets in various towns of
Kenya since mid-morning. In the late morning there
was also a group of "orange" supporters at the
Kenyatta International Conference Center (where the
national tally is being conducted) who were demanding
a permit from the government to hold a victory rally
in Uhuru Park today, as well as demanding that the
government concede the orange victory. (NOTE: the
concession took place, the permit was unnecessary.
END NOTE.) To this point, there have been no reports
of violence at such celebrations.

5. (SBU) The Embassy has received reports of some
suspiciously high turnouts in perhaps a dozen Orange
constituencies. While these seem likely to involve
fraud, it does not appear that there has been a
significant impact on the national result.

6. (U) Uhuru Kenyatta, head of KANU, the old ruling
party (and an "Orange" stalwart), spoke gracious
words on Kenya television about the referendum being
about a constitution for the whole nation of Kenya,
not about one ethnic group or individual losing or
winning. (NOTE: Kenyatta's largely Kikuyu home
constituency voted "yes" in the referendum, in what
some saw as a personal rebuke to him for breaking
ranks with his tribesmen. END NOTE.) Embassy has not
received reports of any major pro-"yes" government
official other than the President reacting to the
preliminary results. A number of Kenyan commentators
called it a crushing political blow for the President
and his supporters in the government.


7. (SBU) It is impossible to see the referendum
result as anything but a stinging rebuke to President
Kibaki and the ruling group around him. Despite last-
minute backpedaling, the President clearly committed
his own prestige to the "yes" side. In addition, the
earlier "Bomas" draft had held to Kibaki's 2002
bargain with Raila Odinga and his allies: Kibaki was
to get the presidency, the rest of the country was to
get a "non-imperial" president in the future
constitution. That is the bargain that Kibaki
clearly broke, maneuvering until he got the now-
rejected draft (which if anything made the Presidency
stronger than before). Kibaki will have to make
compromises even to govern until the 2007 elections.
Whether he will be a viable presidential candidate in
those elections is not clear, but he has certainly
been weakened politically.


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