NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 1 – Kenya’s momentum towards a new constitution suffered a setback on Monday when senior Christian leaders vowed to reject it over the inclusion of the Kadhi courts.
Several church leaders castigated the newest draft released by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitution Review (PSC) last Friday on account that it was discriminatory over the courts and by making several references to Islam.
The clergy threatened to shoot down the draft in the referendum should their demands be ignored.
“If matters we consider fundamental have been voiced and ignored, the only weapon Christians are left with is to reject the draft but rather sadly,” said the Secretary General of the National Council of Churches of Kenya Canon Peter Karanja who chaired the meeting.
“We are not dying for merely any Constitution but one that enshrines justice for all.”
The leaders reiterated that the State should be separated form religion and since Kenya is considered a secular State no religion should be mentioned in the supreme law.
The draft establishes the Kadhi courts but limits them to the determination of questions of Muslim law relating to personal status, marriage, divorce or inheritance in proceedings in which all the parties profess the Muslim religion and submit to the jurisdiction of the Kadhi’s courts. The church leaders are also irate with a proposal to exempt Muslims from sections of the Bill of Rights.
Article 23(6) under the Bill of Rights states:
“No right or fundamental freedom set out in the Bill of Rights may be limited except………………..The provisions of this Chapter on equality shall be qualified to the extent strictly necessary for the application of Muslim law before the Kadhi’s courts, to persons who profess the Muslim religion, in matters relating to personal status, marriage, divorce and inheritance.”
But the Church leaders claimed the mention of Islam in the Constitution was a crafty agenda to introduce Sharia law in the country.
The Christians community has been up in arms against the Committee of Experts (CoE) on the constitution for failing to recognise the courts as part of the contentious issues and subsequent inclusion of the same in the draft. The clergy faulted the PSC for failing to ‘listen to the Christians and approving the courts.’
“We suspect that the inclusion of the courts could have been used in the horse-trading with other political matters,” said Canon Karanja.
On the increase of number of MPs the leaders called for the reduction of parliamentary seats to 250 instead of the proposed 349.
“We should allow the Interim Independent Boundary Review Commission to review our constituencies and if need be, collapse and merge some so that we have a reasonable number,” Canon Karanja said.
The church leaders nevertheless praised the PSC for their agreement on the Presidential system of government and outlawing abortion and same sex marriages.
Other church leaders present included Anglican Archbishop Eliud Wabukhala, Bishop Gerry Kibabara of the Kenya Christian Constitution Forum, and Bishop Boniface Adoyo of Nairobi Pentecostal Church. Other churches represented were Methodist Church, African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa and a dozen of Pentecostal churches while the Catholic Church is said to have affirmed its support of the statement.