2010 Kenyan constitutional referendum

4 August 2010

Do you approve the proposed new Constitution?
Votes %
Yes 6,092,593 68.55%
No 2,795,059 31.45%
Valid votes 8,887,652 100.00%
Invalid or blank votes 218,633 2.46%
Total votes 8,887,652 100.00%
Registered voters/turnout 12,616,627 70.44%

Results by province

A constitutional referendum was held in Kenya on 4 August 2010.[1][2] Voters were asked whether they approved of a proposed new constitution, which had been passed by the National Assembly on 1 April 2010. The new constitution was seen as a vital step to avoid a repetition of the violent outbursts after the 2007 general elections.[3]

The result was a victory for the "Yes" campaign, with 68.6% of voters approving the constitution.[4] The "No" campaign's main spokesman, Higher Education Minister William Ruto, conceded defeat.[5] The new constitution came into force on 27 August.[6]


The 1963 constitution was replaced by a new constitution in 1969. This was amended on several occasions, including a 1982 amendment that led to a coup attempt. The amendment saw the addition of a section 2A to the constitution, making Kenya a single-party state under President Daniel arap Moi. Following protests in the late 1980s, section 2A was repealed in 1991, establishing the multi-party state, and the constitution had existed unmodified since then.[7] Although this was seen as a step forward, the country retained a reputation for corruption and many Kenyans desired a completely revised document. This came a step closer to reality in 1998 when a law was passed in parliament calling for a review of the constitution.[8] However, little was done to effect this during the remaining years of Moi's administration.

In the run-up to his victory in the 2002 general elections, President Mwai Kibaki made constitutional reform and the anti-corruption drive a key priority.[9] Despite promises to conduct a review early in the parliament, the new government continued to drag its feet. This was due mainly to the presence of senior officials from the previous regime, whose defection had been vital to Kibaki's election success, but who were ultimately unwilling to risk upsetting the status quo.[10] Eventually, in 2004, a proposed new constitution known as the Bomas draft was released. This proposed wide-reaching changes to the structure of government, including the transfer of some powers from the President to a newly created post of Prime Minister,[11] representing a change to a semi-presidential republic. Fearing the loss of power, senior government figures watered down the Bomas draft, leading to widespread opposition, civil unrest and the resignation of several senior members of Kibaki's coalition.[11] The revised document was presented to the people in the November 2005 constitutional referendum, and was defeated.[10]

Following the referendum, politicians that had campaigned against the draft united to form a new party in opposition, known as the Orange Democratic Movement, after the symbol of an orange, which had been present on the referendum ballot papers to signify a "no" vote. Despite splits, the party appeared to be in a strong position going into the 2007 presidential election, but was ultimately defeated in controversial circumstances, leading to the violence of the 2007–2008 Kenyan crisis.[3] The peace deal that ended the crisis mandated that the constitutional question be revisited, which led in November 2009 to a new draft. After minor modifications and the passage of the draft through parliament, the referendum date was set for 4 August 2010.[12]


The referendum question was announced on 13 May 2010:

Do you approve the proposed new Constitution?
Swahili: Je, unaikubali katiba mpya inayopendekezwa?

Voter's choices in response to this question were "Yes" or "No". To reduce confusion and make it easier for understanding, the law required that each response was accompanied by a visual symbol to ensure voters were aware of which choice they were making.[13] The symbols chosen for this referendum were colours: green for "Yes" and red for "No".[14]

To be passed, the referendum required a simple majority overall and at least 25% of votes in five of Kenya's eight provinces.[15]


Most senior figures in the coalition government were supporters of the "Yes" campaign, including President Mwai Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and both deputy Prime Ministers, Musalia Mudavadi and Uhuru Kenyatta.[16] The notable exceptions to this were Minister for Higher Education, William Ruto and Minister for Information, Samuel Poghisio, who led the "No" campaign along with former president Daniel arap Moi. These politicians felt the new law would not be good for Kenyans, arguing that the President would still retain excessive powers and that the provisions on land ownership were anti-capitalist.[17]

The other major source of opposition to the constitution came from the Christian churches, who feared it would lead to the legalisation of abortion, due to a clause permitting abortion for maternal health reasons.[18] The other clause considered contentious by the church was the inclusion of Kadhi courts for settling some civil issues relating to Muslim citizens. Although these courts have been present since pre-colonial times, they were not previously enshrined in the Constitution.[19]


The run-up to the referendum was largely peaceful, although there were isolated incidents of violence, such as when six people were killed and many more injured in June 2010, in a bomb attack on a rally for the "No" campaign in Nairobi.[20] The Uchaguzi organisation was established to monitor the referendum.

The vote took place amid tight security to avoid a repeat of the previous elections' aftermath. There were particular worries in the Rift Valley Province, where tensions between Kalenjin and Kikuyu populations had caused the worst of the 2007 violence. The vote eventually passed off peacefully, with no reports of violence.[21]

Opinion polls

Opinion polls taken between April and July 2010 showed a consistent lead for the "Yes" campaign, with support ranging between 49% and 64%, compared to a range of 17% — 22% for the "No" campaign.

Date For Against Undecided
24 April 2010[22] 64% 17% 19%
29 May 2010[23] 63% 21% 16%
4 June 2010[24] 57% 20% 19%
7 July 2010[25] 49% 22% 22%
16 July 2010[26] 62% 20% 18%
23 July 2010[27] 58% 22% 17%


Results by Province
1. Central
2. Coast
3. Eastern
4. Nairobi
5. North Eastern
6. Nyanza
7. Rift Valley
8. Western

The result was a victory for the "Yes" campaign, with 69% in favour and 31% against on a turnout of 72.2%.[28] Most areas of the country voted in favour of the Constitution, with the notable exception of the Rift Valley Province, where the majority of voters followed the advice of local leaders William Ruto and Daniel arap Moi in voting against.[29] The only area that failed to vote overwhelmingly as predicted was the Ukambani area of the lower Eastern Province, where the "Yes" camp recorded only a very narrow victory despite support from local leaders Kalonzo Musyoka and Charity Ngilu.[30]

Referendum results
Choice Votes %
Referendum passed Yes 6,092,593 68.55
No 2,795,059 31.45
Valid votes 8,887,652 97.60
Invalid or blank votes 218,633 2.40
Total votes 9,106,285 100.00
Registered voters/turnout 12,616,627 72.18
Source: African Elections Database

By province

Province For Against Invalid/
Total Registered
Votes % Votes %
Central 1,274,967 84.4 235,588 15.6 29,692 1,540,247 1,958,898 78.6
Coast 425,626 79.24 111,532 20.76 16,388 553,546 997,086 55.5
Eastern 741,109 56.43 572,109 43.57 32,480 1,345,698 2,028,444 66.3
Nairobi 678,621 76.52 208,195 23.48 29,298 916,114 1,292,229 70.9
North Eastern 110,992 95.71 4,970 4.29 599 116,561 231,928 50.3
Nyanza 1,174,033 92.04 101,491 7.96 20,257 1,295,781 1,705,292 76.0
Rift Valley 971,331 40.52 1,426,102 59.48 65,447 2,462,880 3,046,294 80.8
Western 715,914 84.13 135,072 15.87 24,472 875,458 1,356,456 64.5
Total 6,092,593 68.55 2,795,059 31.45 218,633 9,106,285 12,616,627 72.2
Source: African Elections Database


The result was generally welcomed by the international community, with messages of congratulations to the government and people of Kenya from, amongst others, US President Barack Obama, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the leaders of other African Great Lakes nations.[31]


As required by the law mandating the referendum, the new Constitution was formally promulgated in a ceremony on 27 August 2010 by President Kibaki. This historic occasion was attended by foreign leaders and dignitaries from Africa and all over the world.[32]


  1. ^ "Kenya referendum date set", Daily Nation, 14 May 2010
  2. ^ "Kenya votes in referendum on new constitution", BBC, 4 August 2010
  3. ^ a b The Earthtimes (3 April 2010). "US: Kenya needs unified effort behind draft constitution | Earth Times News". Earthtimes.org. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
  4. ^ Election Results IEBC
  5. ^ Gekara, Emeka-Mayaka; Menya, Walter; Wanja, Joy (5 August 2010). "'No' camp concedes referendum defeat". Daily Nation.
  6. ^ Ottilia A. Maunganidze (2012) Pouvoir Et Poursuite, Défis Et Opportunités Pour la Justice Pénale Internationale en Afrique SubSaharienne, Universitätsverlag Göttingen, p114
  7. ^ Firestone, Matthew (2009). Kenya. Lonely Planet Publications. p. 31. ISBN 978-1-74104-773-8. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
  8. ^ Firestone p32
  9. ^ "Kenyan opposition 'to fight corruption'". BBC News. 23 October 2002.
  10. ^ a b Firestone, p33
  11. ^ a b Matheson, Ishbel (22 July 2005). "Kenya's fight for a constitution". BBC News.
  12. ^ Kariui, Anthony (14 May 2010). "Kenya referendum date set". Daily Nation.
  13. ^ Ngirachu, John (14 May 2010). "Symbols for referendum out next week". Daily Nation.
  14. ^ Mathenge, Oliver (17 May 2010). "Kenya referendum: Its Green vs Red". Daily Nation.
  15. ^ Gettleman, Jeffrey (4 August 2010). "New Constitution Nears Approval in Kenya". The New York Times.
  16. ^ Barasa, Lucas (28 June 2010). "'Yes' camp unveils its plan for poll victory". Daily Nation.
  17. ^ Odunga, Dennis (19 April 2010). "Draft law bad for Kenyans, says Ruto". Daily Nation.
  18. ^ Richard Allen Greene (4 August 2010). "Kenya's churches unite against draft constitution". CNN. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
  19. ^ Ross, Will (3 August 2008). "Kenyan referendum vote brings out fruity colours". BBC. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
  20. ^ Stack, Liam (14 June 2010). "Kenya bomb attacks kill six at constitution rally". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 15 July 2010.
  21. ^ "Kenya's Rift Valley relieved, anxieties remain". Reuters Africa. 6 August 2010. Archived from the original on 4 June 2012. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  22. ^ 64pc Kenyans say Yes: Synovate poll[permanent dead link] Capital FM (Poll by Synovate Research)
  23. ^ Kadhi ruling will not affect Kenya referendum vote-poll Archived 12 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine Daily Nation (Poll by Infotrak Harris)
  24. ^ Poll: Support for new Kenya law drops to 57pc Daily Nation (Poll by Synovate Research)
  25. ^ Annan: What 'Yes' team must do for clear win The Standard (Report by Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation Monitoring Project)
  26. ^ 62pc Kenyans want Yes: Poll Archived 18 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine Capital FM
  27. ^ Support for Kenya new law drops to 58pc Archived 12 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine Daily Nation
  28. ^ Interim Independent Electoral Commission of Kenya (IIEC) (6 August 2010). "Kenya referendum results". Capital FM. Archived from the original on 25 August 2010. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
  29. ^ "Ministers fail to deliver 'Yes' victory in Rift". Daily Nation. 5 August 2010. Archived from the original on 11 August 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  30. ^ Odalo, Bob (5 August 2010). "'No' results shock VP, Ngilu in Ukambani". Daily Nation. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  31. ^ Namunane, Bernard (6 August 2010). "Kibaki to sign new laws amid pomp and fanfare". Daily Nation. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  32. ^ Kenya president ratifies new constitution BBC News, 27 August 2010