Congressmen: US Funds Being Used to Buy Votes for Kenya Referendum

Constitutional Reform Referendum May Run Afoul of Abortion Restrictions

Though it is only rarely discussed, US funding of international “reform” through USAID is once again a topic of discussion, this time over allegations that some of the funds are directly being funneled to the “yes” vote in Kenya’s upcoming constitutional referendum.

The US Embassy in Kenya has admitted to providing some $11 million in funds for the constitutional reform in Kenya, but that only a small portion of this actually went to the “yes” campaign. which has since been cancelled.

US meddling in international campaigns is hardly a new thing, and might well have gone by unnoticed in this case, except that Congressmen noticed the “reform” includes a slight altering of the wording of Kenya’s abortion ban, meaning the funding was potentially afoul of a ban on lobbying for changes in foreign abortion law.

Rep. Chris Smith (R – NJ) complained that it was unseemly and declared “the Obama Administration should immediately withdraw all US taxpayer funding used to buy votes and influence the outcome on the referendum.”

Though officials insist that they are largely complying with the law, the Obama Administration has made no secret of their support for the “yes” campaign, with President Obama openly cheering it as an opportunity to “move beyond corruption” and Vice President Biden telling Kenyans that a “yes” vote would “ultimately guarantee your security.”

The constitutional reform effort is the result of the early 2008 post-election violence. Beyond the openly funding, several Kenyan officials have alleged that the US embassy is trying to bribe MPs to support the “yes” campaign.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.