Symbols for referendum out next week - Daily Nation

Symbols for referendum out next week

Friday May 14 2010

PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Issack Hassan.

PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Issack Hassan. NATION MEDIA GROUP

By JOHN NGIRACHU

The symbols that will represent the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ vote at the referendum will be known next week.

Top officials of the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) will meet in the Nairobi on Monday to select the symbols from a list of suggestions by Kenyans.

The commission will also announce the campaign period, which by law ends 24 hours to the August 4 referendum date announced earlier on Friday.

However, IIEC chairman Issack Hassan said his team would only settle for neutral symbols.

“No party symbols will be picked. The banana and orange symbols used in the last referendum are also out of the question,” he said at a press conference at the commission’s headquarters.

Kenyans have been asked to suggest appropriate symbols and the commission has set up an interactive website to enable that. It has also provided for postal delivery.

Mr Hassan said suggestions had even come from Kenyans in the diaspora. At an earlier function, he indicated that these symbols included wildlife and food.

The orange, which represented the triumphant ‘No’ vote at the last referendum, was later adopted by the Orange Democratic Movement, led by Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Earlier, the chairman had said that any symbols, even while neutral, are likely to have meanings ascribed to them by the campaigners.

“We have an interesting menu, but at the end of the day, whatever we choose can be tortured and twisted,” he said at a media breakfast hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

UNDP has launched a programme through which it will collaborate with civil society groups to offer civic education on the proposed constitution.

Mr Hassan said the symbols are mandatory because they will enable the illiterate to identify the side they wish to vote for.

The campaign period is yet to be announced but each camp has lined up its forces for the referendum.

The ‘Yes’ camp, headed by President Kibaki and Mr Odinga, is set to launch its campaign on Saturday at Uhuru Park.

This comes a week after the ‘No’ camp, headed by the National Council of Churches of Kenya, launched its campaign at the same venue.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission and other organisations have warned against the kind of divisions that arose in 2005.

These are seen to have marked the genesis of the violence that followed the 2007 General Election.

“History repeats itself and every time we forget, the price goes higher,” said Mr Hassan, who was also a member of the 2005 Constitution of Kenya Review Commission.

The IIEC also issued writs for the July 12 by-elections in Matuga and 26 civic wards. The by-elections would have been held on the same day as the referendum as both the writs and the proposed constitution were published on the same day.

All other by-elections, such as the one for Juja, will be held after the referendum, said Mr Hassan.

He said August 4 was arrived at after consultations on logistics and planning with the police commissioner and the Education Ministry.

“More than 50 per cent of our polling stations are located in educational institutions and we hope they will have closed by then,” said the chairman.