19 July 2010

Kenya: Obama Spending U.S. Millions On 'Yes', U.S. Lawmaker Charges

Nairobi — The Obama administration is spending US$23 million on the referendum campaign, more than double what had earlier been acknowledged, a US congressman says.

"US tax dollar monies are flying out the door to pro-abortion groups committed to overturning pro-life laws in Kenya," Republican Representative Chris Smith charged on Friday.

He released new information from the inspector general of the US Agency for International Development that is sure to stoke the controversy over the Obama administration's involvement in the constitutional reform process.

A USAid listing provided to Congressman Smith shows that US$2.9 million is being given to Development Alternatives for "activities related to the constitutional support process."

This Washington-based NGO suggested 10 years ago that USAid in Kenya "would benefit by supporting civil society organisations that are advocating for 'efforts to eventually legalise abortion in Kenya,'" Mr Smith said in a statement.

The chart provided by Donald Gambatesa, the USAid inspector general, also lists an US$85,363 grant to the Kenyan Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA-Kenya), which, according to Mr Smith, launched a campaign in 2008 to liberalise Kenya's abortion law.

Determined Outcome

The United States provided about US$180,000 to the Committee of Experts on Constitutional Review for office renovation, furniture and equipment, and networking capability, the USAid chart further shows.

"The Obama Administration should not be spending US$23 million in American tax dollars on the specific 'Yes' campaign, pushing a determined outcome on the Proposed Constitution in Kenya," Mr Smith said, equating all US funding for the referendum process with support for the green camp.

"The US government can be supportive of the process, helping to secure a free and fair referendum," the congressman added. "But we must respect the Kenyan people and let them decide for themselves. US dollars should not be used to tell the Kenyan people how to vote."

These disclosures via Mr Smith came on the same day that the US embassy in Nairobi said it was suspending or ending USAid grants to nine Kenyan organisations found to be supporting the Yes campaign.The US embassy said at the same time that it has provided about US$11 million in support of the referendum process, the Associated Press reported.

The AP quoted embassy spokeswoman Katya Thomas as saying the nine grants had originally been funded to carry out neutral activities related to the referendum. A primary contractor gave sub-grants to other groups using language that had not been approved by the embassy, Ms Thomas added.

Democratic Reforms

"We don't fund the Yes campaign, but around the region, not just in Kenya, through USAid, we support constitutional democratic reforms," Ms Thomas told the AP.

Congressman Smith had earlier revealed that 10 Kenyan organisations receiving referendum-related funding from USAid were using the money to promote Yes votes.

Mr Smith is one of three Republican members of Congress who charge that the Obama administration has violated a US law prohibiting use of public funds to support of oppose abortion.

The three argue that the Proposed Constitution will permit virtually unlimited access to abortion for Kenyan women.

An anti-abortion NGO based in the US state of Illinois meanwhile announced it is circulating a petition calling for rejection of the Proposed Constitution.

Abortion opponents in Kenya "need to know that they have allies around the world who stand in solidarity with them," the World Congress of Families said.

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