Kampala — Kenyan politicians race along dusty roads in convoys of shiny four-wheel drives, wave oranges and bananas above their heads, and trade the kind of insults last heard during the 2002 election campaign.
Just weeks before a November 21 referendum on a new constitution for the east African nation, the "Yes" and "No" camps have gone into overdrive in a battle for votes that is high on hysterics and hype and low on clarity and context.
The government is leading the "Yes" campaign with the symbol of a banana while the opposition - and a "rebel" party in the ruling coalition - are pushing the "No" vote with an orange.
The campaign has been marked by riots, stone throwing, the arrests of journalists and politicians, gunshots and fist-fights among legislators. Some people were even detained while trying to unleash a hive of bees into a crowd at one rally.
The 197-page proposed new constitution would strengthen the powers of the president, ban abortion and boost women's rights - all issues that have fired passions.
Critics say the proposed draft fails to curb President Mwai Kibaki's immense powers and is a betrayal of his pledge to include broad input from Kenyans and not just politicians.
But one of the biggest sources of discontent is the fact that most people simply do not know what the new document says.
For many ordinary Kenyans, just getting hold of a copy of the text is almost impossible. Low literacy rates mean many also rely on leaders to explain the proposed new document for them - a duty most analysts say politicians are failing to do.
"Civic education has come down to the campaign level," said Kwamchetsi Makokha, a newspaper columnist.
"The politicians are following their partisan, tribal and personal interests and so the key issues are hardly ever heard."
At a "Yes" rally in Kisii, a small town about 360 km (225 miles) west of the capital Nairobi, government officials threw copies of the proposed charter to hundreds of people, who surged forward, fighting over the copies and tearing some to pieces.
"I am going to give these out back home," one local farmer told Reuters as he emerged breathless from the crowd with several copies stuffed down his trousers.
Oranges and bananas
The adoption of the new constitution would be the first complete overhaul since a charter was drawn up on the eve of independence in 1963. Critics say the current one fosters graft and tribalism because of the president's immense powers.
The banana and orange symbols were selected by electoral officials as neutral images to help voters, especially those who are illiterate.
But for many in this nation of 32 million, the fruits have become aptly bizarre symbols for a crazy campaign.
Instead of a measured, educational campaign, the build-up to the referendum has snowballed into a major political showdown and a realignment of forces among the ruling elite, who all have an eye on the next election in 2007.
Many political leaders are using the rallies to whip up emotion, violence and tribal animosity, analysts say.
Three days of street riots over the campaign in July brought central Nairobi to a standstill and left one person dead.
Should the vote be postponed?
Police have warned that they will act against anyone found to be inciting violence or paying people to break up rallies.
The campaign is a defining moment for Kibaki's National Rainbow Coalition government, which won the December 2002 election, ending Daniel arap Moi's 24-year rule.
Six ministers have broken from Kibaki to join the "No" campaign, and whichever way the vote goes, the future is uncertain for the coalition. The divided Cabinet has not met for about a month since the campaign began.
Away from the political infighting, ordinary Kenyans just want to know more about the text.
"We have heard people talking about the constitution all the time but I did not know what it is, so I have come here to listen to the leaders and to understand," said Miriam Kiingi, a farmer at the rally in Kisii.
About 1,500 people turned up for the meeting, standing for hours listening to politicians' speeches in a dusty stadium.
One of the main bones of contention between the "Yes" and "No" camps is the section on presidential powers.
An earlier draft drawn up after broad grassroots consultation had sought to curb those powers by creating a powerful prime minister. But the final draft, prepared by Attorney General Amos Wako, provides for a weaker prime minister who will be appointed and dismissed by the president, and whose main job would be to lead government business in parliament.
Other issues that have raised hackles include the equal right of women to inherit, have access to and manage property, and limits on how much land an individual can own.
The proposed charter would also prohibit abortion - unless permitted by an Act of Parliament - as well as same-sex marriages. It establishes a system of separate religious tribunals with Christian, Muslim (Khadi) and Hindu courts.
Given the widespread lack of understanding of these issues, some say the referendum should be postponed.
"We are not in a hurry, the Constitution is not medicine so that if we do not take it we will die," said Charles Mogere, a businessman in Kisii.
"We should take our sweet time and come up with a document that is perfect for this country."