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Divisions as Kenya review enters home stretch

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 27- Kenyan Church leaders said on Tuesday that they would mobilise a rejection of the draft Constitution if it contains the creation of religious courts.

The leaders from the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK), Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) and Methodist Church of Kenya (MCK) questioned why the Committee of Experts on Constitution Review was rushing to write the draft while the contentious issues have not been addressed.

Kenya Christian Constitutional Forum Chairman Bishop Gerry Kibarabara said they will “only accept a Constitution which will apply to all Kenyans equally.”

“The Constitution is a covenant among the people about how they wish to be governed, it`s never about religions,” he said.

PCEA Moderator Reverend David Gathanju said: “We need a Constitution that takes care of the economic distribution in the land and observes democratic rights of the minority and majority.”

“Kadhi Courts are all about Sharia law and it is the law applicable. The extent to which a nation will apply will depend on who are its leaders. Who can tell what may or will happen in future?” posed the Moderator.

MCK Presiding Bishop Stephen Kanyaru said: “We have said ‘NO’ to any impression given or created that the Kadhi Courts is not a contentious issue. We would want the Constitution to be a law that will apply to all Kenyans equally.”

The protests came as experts converged in Kilaguni to fine tune the draft Constitution to be subjected to a referendum. The draft law which according to the Constitution calendar will be published next week is to be scrutinised by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitution review and interest groups before being debated in Parliament. The referendum for Kenyans to decide the fate of the new law is expected next year.

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The Committee had identified the contentious issues as the system of government to be adopted, level of devolution and the clauses on transition. Entrenchment of Kadhi Courts and the boundary review have however elicited mixed reactions from politicians and the Church and threatened to scuttle the process

Christians have objected a decision by the team to have the courts enshrined in the supreme law as it is constituted presently without any alteration to safeguard the interests of the Muslim community.

The religious leaders want the review process stopped arguing that the experts were not committed to giving Kenyans a new constitution.

“They are arguing that the courts were not touched during the independence because it was a concession agreement between the colonial government and the Sultan; but numbers have since changed and that is why we are doing a review,” said Evangelical and Indigenous churches chairman Bishop Joseph Methu who has gone to court seeking to stop the review process. 

There are currently 17 Kadhi Courts in the country. “Taxpayers money should not be used to propagate principles of one religion,” he said.

Separately the Party of National Unity remained adamant that it would not accept proposals for a ceremonial Presidency. Speaking after a meeting of the Supreme Council and the Central Committee on Tuesday, Secretary General Kiraitu Murungi said the Party is in support of a President elected by the people and wielding considerable powers.

“We do not rule out the position where the Executive powers are shared by a Prime Minister,” he said.

The Orange Democratic Movement is in support of an elected ceremonial President as Head of State whereas an Executive Prime Minister picked by MPs takes over as Head of government.

Mr Murungi however says the PNU will be seeking dialogue with ODM to build consensus on the matter.

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“We want to talk with our brothers and iron out differences and approach Parliament and the referendum with a common stand,” he said.


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