Republicans Reps. Chris Smith of New Jersey, Darrell Issa of California and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida last month launched an investigation into American funding of a “yes” campaign on a new Kenyan constitution. On Wednesday, 69 percent of Kenyan voters cast “yes” ballots.
The constitution was designed to curb presidential powers while implementing mechanisms needed to protect basic human rights — but it would also legalize abortion for the first time in the East African country’s history.
A report released by the Office of Inspector General of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) after the congressional inquiry showed that the federal government had used $23 million in American taxpayer money to support the passage of the Kenyan constitution, which contradicted earlier statements from the U.S. Embassy in Kenya. Using taxpayer dollars to lobby for or against abortion violates federal law.
The White House has yet to address such concerns. It did however, voice support for passage. Vice President Biden traveled to Kenya earlier this summer to urge Kenyans to vote “yes.” On Thursday President Obama released a statement congratulating the people of Kenya on passing the constitution.
“This was a significant step forward for Kenya’s democracy, and the peaceful nature of the election was a testament to the character of the Kenyan people,” the president said in the press release. “My administration has been pleased to support Kenya’s democratic development.”
He continued: “As Kenya’s close friend and partner, the United States will work with the international community to support the implementation process, and to stand with the Kenyan people as they reach for a better future.”
In a recent press conference, Smith restated his concerns about the White House’s involvement in the Kenyan referendum. “There has been U.S. complicity at every turn,” he told The Daily Caller.
Smith said that in recent months, officials from the Kenyan government visited the White House asking for financial support for their constitutional process.
Now that the constitution has officially passed, it is expected to take up to five years to implement changes within the Kenyan government – including the formation of a Supreme Court. Parliament also has to pass 49 additional laws within a set time limit.