WASHINGTON – Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have released the following statement on the upcoming Kenyan constitutional referendum:
“August 4, 2010 will be an historic day for the people of Kenya. Citizens across the country will vote on a new Constitution, paving the way for a more democratic and stable country. Kenyans have worked tirelessly in a peaceful and transparent process of drafting a new Constitution. According to the Constitution of Kenya Review Act of 2008, the process “accommodates the diversity of the people of Kenya, including socio economic status, race, ethnicity, gender, religious faith, age, occupation, learning, persons with disabilities and disadvantaged.” The Act also established a Committee of Experts and a Parliamentary Select Committee.
“We, as Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, strongly support the people of Kenya in their efforts to maintain peace and promote democracy. The referendum on a new Constitution is an important measure in meeting these objectives. The Obama Administration continues to provide support to the people and government of Kenya. In June, President Obama stated in an interview that the upcoming referendum is a “singular opportunity to put the government of Kenya on solid footing beyond ethnicity violence, corruption and towards economic prosperity.”
“Unfortunately, there have been foreign organizations and individuals, who have engaged in a shameful and harmful campaign to derail the constitutional reform process. These critics have misconstrued both the nature of the Obama Administration’s support for constitutional reform and the content of the draft Constitution.
“It should be clear that the Constitution was written by Kenyans and for Kenyans. Parties to the drafting process have carefully weighed in to ensure that the Constitution, among other provisions, balances right to life, respect for existing laws and programs, and consideration of environment. Moreover, the new Constitution contains important provisions, including a new Upper House (Senate), a Supreme Court, Land reform, and a Bill of Rights provision.
“American pro-life groups have financed several Kenyan religious groups to defeat the passage of the new Constitution because of a provision on abortion. A provision on abortion was pushed for inclusion in the Constitution by the same groups in Kenya, financed and supported by their anti-abortion allies in the United States. These foreign elements deliberately misrepresent what is in the Constitution in the hope of galvanizing an anti-abortion movement across East Africa.
“The provision in the new constitution clearly states that “Abortion is not permitted unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is a need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.” This provision is consistent with the current law in Kenya. The draft Constitution simply does not authorize abortion on-demand, and to state otherwise is misleading.
“During his recent visit to Kenya, Vice President Biden stated to the people of Kenya: "As you prepare to write a new history for your nation, resist those who try to divide you based on ethnicity or religion or region and above all fear. It is a tool as old as mankind and it’s been used to great effect in this country in the past."
“This is a critical time for the continued democratic development of Kenya, and we must do all we can to support the process. Ultimately, the outcome lies in the hands of the Kenyan citizens, and we must ensure that a unified Kenya is able to move forward. We support the people of Kenya in this monumental step, and we look forward to the results of the vote whatever they may be.”