Give us civic education, not politics

Let me take you to a conversation I listened albeit unwillingly in a matatu on my way to work this morning.

I sat next a middle-aged ma, probably in his late forties at the front seat of the matatu. For the sake of this write up, we will call him Peter. Throughout the 20 minute drive to town he argued so hard to convince the driver why he will vote NO in the forthcoming referendum.

"I will vote against the Constitution not because I support the Church but because I have my own concerns," he said.

As a parent, he is scared that the Proposed Constitution has failed to outlaw same sex marriages. To the extent of his knowledge, this allows any adult to marry any adult of their choice. Agreeing with him, it would be the nightmare of any parent to imagine his son introducing a fellow man as their partner.

Peter\’s second worry on this is the thought that his daughter can get married to an old man and there is nothing much he can do since the law allows her.

That took me a back and I decided to refresh my mind on what the draft law says regarding this grave issue.

Section (45) subsection (2) of the draft states, "Every adult has the right to marry a person of the opposite sex, based on the free consent of the parties."

This section clearly says same sex marriages are not allowed. My first guess is that Peter has not read the draft and his deduction was as a result of some premises he had gathered from  friends.

His second fear is true but I don think there is much we can do about it.

Another reason Peter will be voting NO is the perception that the new law allows security forces to go on strike. During Parliamentary debate this section too was debated extensively. However the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee told the House the perception is wrong.

To me Peter\’s reasons of rejecting what he calls 95% good document are misplaced. But on the flip side, I guess he represents a considerable section of the Kenyan society who need attention as we walk this path to the new Constitution.

For your information I don\’t approve this draft in toto, there are some fundamentals that I disagree with and am yet convinced to vote Yes. However I continue to study it and confirm everything I am told by politicians and pastor. I am worried for misinformed Kenyans who will vote on it from a point of ignorance since they have been convinced by their pastor, MP or friend.

"Let us all wait for the announcement of the referendum results and that is when you will know the numbers the church command."

That was the statement by the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya Canon Peter Karanja on Friday when he announced the launch of the NO campaign at a rally in Uhuru Park.

As the Canon backed by the who is who in the clergy was thumping his chest, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka (not minding he is a Christian) was in Murang\’a doing the same, only this time for the YES camp. We are not going back, he said. Elsewhere Higher Education Minister William Ruto was in his Eldoret North backyard accelerating his NO campaign.

It is clear to all and sundry that it is the State and to a greater extent the Church. The daggers are drawn and the stake too.

Each of the camp has identified their strong point to campaign from. For the Yes team it is devolution representation and good governance. For the NO camp it is the ever divisive land issues, Kadhis courts and abortion. These two teams are not putting effort to educate the public on the document as a whole.
I hope the Committee of Experts has closely been monitoring this debate and are ready to clear all the half truths during the much awaited civic education.

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