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Kenyans Say Yes to New Constitution

Church leaders claim irregularities, urge peace after the vote

A landslide referendum victory gave Kenyans a new constitution that had proven controversial among Christian leaders during the campaign phase.

Preliminary results show that nearly 70 percent of Kenyan voters approved the draft constitution. Many Christian leaders, who had objected to sections that loosened restrictions on abortion and gave legitimacy to Islamic courts on certain matters of family law, were unhappy with the decision but urged Kenyans to react peacefully.

"Thanks for the peace, and we ask you to continue living in peace," said Roman Catholic Bishop Cornelius Korir according to CatholicCulture.org.

The referendum substantially revises the constitution which Kenya adopted when it broke off from Britain in 1963. The referendum, which in part reforms the electoral system and limits the power of the president, was prompted by the contested 2007 presidential election which sparked tribal violence resulting in more than 1,000 deaths.

While church leaders have vowed to accept the democratic will of the people, some have alleged that the election was not entirely fair. According to the Kenyan Daily Nation, church leaders said that the run-up to the referendum "was marred by malpractices and irregularities which continued right into the balloting and tallying phases."

"We know that in some places, they were going door to door giving people money to vote for the Constitution," said Rev. Canon Peter Karanja of the National Council of Churches of Kenya. "We even know of places where there was intimidation against some communities."

Several major players in the "No" campaign are now refocusing their energies on amending the new constitution.

"The process continues," says Karanja.

Read CT's previous coverage of Kenya here.

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