Wednesday, August 4, 2010

New constitution for Kenya

Yesterday Kenyans voted on a proposed constitution, and it looks as though the draft was passed by a large margin, though official results are set to come out tonight or tomorrow. The 4th was declared a public holiday, and Nairobi was quiet except for the long queues that snaked out of polling stations. I went into the city centre around 7.30, and throughout the day the talk was of nothing but the referendum. I heard one man on a street corner saying to a small audience, 'It's going to pass, but it's a shame'. An elderly man, grey-haired, suited and bespectacled, came into a tea shop waving his ink-marked thumb for everyone to see. Several people asked if I'd voted yet, and I had to explain that not even an Obama presidency had given Americans that right.

Back at the YMCA everyone was showing off their marked fingers, talking about how long they'd had to queue, and about their hopes that the new constitution would change Kenya for the better. For a week leading up to the referendum it seemed a foregone conclusion that the draft would pass, and so the main concern had become that the voting would go off without violence. Everyone I talked to expressed great pride that this seems to have been the case. Now everyone is just awaiting the official results before they begin to celebrate.

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