Friday, July 16, 2010

U.S. Taxpayer Funding for Kenyan Referendum Soars to $23 Million

Rep. Chris Smith

Image by republicanconference via Flickr

More Than Double Previous Estimates

WASHINGTON, July 16 /Christian Newswire/ -- U.S. taxpayers are now footing the bill to push a new constitution in Kenya to the tune of $23 million, far above previous estimates.
The Inspector General (IG) for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Donald Gambatesa, has provided information that the US Government is spending over $23 million for activities in Kenya to influence the voter to pass a highly contentious constitution which includes overturning Kenyan's current life of the mother only restriction on abortion.
As part of ongoing discussions with the IG's office, Rep. Chris Smith, Ranking Member of the Africa and Global Health Subcommittee, and other key U.S. lawmakers recently received a chart listing recipients of USAID-funded activities related to the proposed constitution and a summary of their agreements. Previous estimates had indicated that $2 million was being spent, then that was updated to $11 million and now the figure identified by the IG's office exceeds $23 million.
"The Obama Administration should not be spending $23 million in American tax dollars on the specific 'Yes' campaign, pushing a determined outcome on the proposed constitution in Kenya," Smith said. "The U.S. government can be supportive of the process, helping to secure a free and fair referendum. But we must respect the Kenyan people and let them decide for themselves. U.S. dollars should not be used to tell the Kenyan people how to vote."
In addition to information that the Obama Administration is funding the "Yes" campaign in Kenya, (link to a list of organizations paid with U.S. funding to support the new constitution), the chart reinforces concern that the US is financially supporting groups and activities that are advocating for abortion in the context of the draft constitution.
Smith said the IG's list shows that "U.S. tax dollar monies are flying out the door to pro-abortion groups committed to overturning pro-life laws in Kenya." He pointed to the Kenyan Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA-Kenya), which as a member of the Kenyan Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance (RHRA), is committed to increasing the availability of abortion and the decriminalization of abortion in the country. FIDA-Kenya helped to draft controversial legislation and launched a campaign in 2008 to liberalize Kenya's abortion law. Under the U.S. law, such actions should make FIDA-Kenya and similar organizations ineligible for civic education assistance related to the draft constitution.
The list includes the following:
The Committee of Experts on Constitutional Review in Kenya, which drafted the abortion-related provisions in the proposed constitution, received over $180,000 of US taxpayer monies for office equipment and networking capability. The Committee rejected the life of the mother only exception to abortion inserted into the draft constitution by a Parliamentary committee, and added a "health" exception to abortion. It is commonly known that health exceptions to abortion often lead to abortion on demand owing to the broad definition of health that includes socio-economic reasons as exemplified in the US Supreme Court decision on abortion in 1973.
The Kenyan Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA-Kenya) is a member of the Kenyan Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance (RHRA), which is supported by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). According to the PPFA website, the RHRA's activities include "drafting reproductive health provisions for the revised constitution." PPFA's work in Kenya includes "increasing the availability of affordable safe abortion services and supporting advocates to decriminalize abortion in the country." FIDA-Kenya helped to draft controversial legislation and launched a campaign in 2008 to liberalize Kenya's abortion law. It is receiving assistance not only from PPFA through the RHRA, but also $85,363 from USAID for advocacy activities related to the draft constitution.
FIDA-Kenya together with two other USAID funding recipients were facilitators at a "National Women Constitution Conference" held on April 30- during the USAID grant period for each organization. The conference agenda included "demystifying" the "contentious issue" of abortion.
The African Woman and Child Features Service, a media non-governmental organization ("NGO") that seeks to increase media coverage about abortion and "comprehensive reproductive health rights" in Kenya, is receiving nearly $157,000 for constitution-related activities, including "advocacy and lobbying meetings with reform bodies at national level."
Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI), which is receiving almost $3 million as a primary grant recipient, advised USAID in 2000 that USAID/Kenya would benefit by supporting civil society organizations that are advocating for "efforts to eventually legalize abortion in Kenya." While acknowledging that such activity would be "politically sensitive," DAI suggested that USAID might support local advocacy groups in their efforts as part of USAID's democracy and governance strategic objectives component that supports civic society organizations.
Smith stressed that the US can and should be supportive of "a fair, free and non-violent" process and civic education, but not work for a specific outcome. Despite US Embassy claims to the contrary, U.S. taxpayers are paying to promote passage of a foreign referendum which is viewed by many in Kenya as interference and meddling in a sovereign Kenyan matter.
Smith said that one of the most controversial items in the proposed constitution is a provision that would in effect overturn Kenya's long-existing laws outlawing abortion.
"We should be embracing the health and welfare of both mothers and children in African while respecting sovereign prolife laws. Instead, the Obama Administration is trying to change Kenya's existing restriction on abortion through the referendum. Such actions constitute a violation of U.S. law and is an affront to both the pro-life people of Kenya and the US, an overwhelming majority of whom do not support abortion, and in the case of the US-do not want their tax dollars to pay for abortion activities," Smith added.
In a May letter to the IGs at the State Department and USAID, Smith, and Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18), the Ranking Member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Darrell Issa (CA-49), the Ranking Member on the House Oversight Committee, called for investigations into potentially illegal funding to promote the proposed pro-abortion Kenyan constitution. Such promotion would violate a statutory restriction that no USAID and State Department funds "may be used to lobby for or against abortion."