Kenyan churches brace for Constitution battle

April 28, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 28 – The battle for the enactment of a new Constitution is now headed for the referendum, after Churches pulled out of consensus building talks with the government.

Church leaders told a news conference on Wednesday that the talks had collapsed since the government has lacked the political will.

In a statement read by Bishop Jackson Kosgey, the clergy said the State had failed to accommodate their demands as shown by Tuesday’s Cabinet decision that no amendments are possible before the referendum.

“The Church will not continue engaging in the talks but we will instead focus our energies on educating the people on the implications of cardinal issues and campaigning for the rejection of the draft,” said Bishop Kosgey.

Their stand came hours before a fresh bid to revive the talks which aborted on Monday. A twenty member committee was meant to meet to consider recommendations of a technical committee. Reports however had indicated that Christian lawyers in the technical team had rejected a bid by the State to sign a memorandum of understanding committing to changes after the referendum.

“We are convinced that the government’s call was meant for purposes other than resolving the contentious issues,” added Bishop Kosgey.

The church is opposed to the inclusion of Kadhis courts and a clause that they say leaves a loophole for the legalisation of abortion in the draft law.

The Cabinet resolved to support the draft constitution in its current form but agreed that talks between the government and Church continue to "accommodate their concerns on the issue of abortion and right to life.”

“This is fundamentally a political problem and I think the Christian community is being sidelined politically,” said the National Council of Churches of Kenya General Secretary Canon Peter Karanja. “This is a conspiracy between the organs of review and unknown interests.”

A brief from the Presidential Press Service said that it was practically impossible to amend the draft at this stage as demanded by the clergy.

“I think Cabinet desires to see a contested referendum and we cannot stop them from doing that,” said Canon Karanja.

The attorney General is expected to publish the document next week officially kicking off the National civic education program to be spearheaded by the Committee of Experts. The Interim Independent Electoral Commission will have 60 days after the publication to conduct a referendum.

Canon Karanja said the church will up its NO campaign amongst all faithfuls.

“Unless government chooses to rig the referendum by not providing the draft for all to read, I’m sure many other Kenyans will be saying No when they read the document and see for themselves its implications on their lives,” he said.


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