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Kenyan churches differ on draft law

NAIROBI, Kenya Apr 12- Evangelical and Pentecostal churches on Monday dismissed efforts by the government to seek consensus and support from religious leaders who are opposed to the draft Constitution ahead of the referendum.

The new group meeting under the Kenya Church Constitutional Forum (KCCF) umbrella claimed that Committee of Experts and the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitution paid no attention to its views during the writing of the new law and vowed to rally Christians to reject the draft. They are basing their opposition to the clause on abortion and that one on Kadhis Courts.

Jesus Is Alive Ministries preacher and Housing Assistant Minister Bishop Margaret Wanjiru said the government has been ignoring them.

She said: “We as church leaders are not going to play public relations. Constitution is not about PR… there is no time for forming committees and trying to accomplish this or that. If they were to form committees for us they would have formed them way before this matter went out of hand but they decided that they will not listen to us; this is action time and our vote goes for No.”

Clerics have threatened to mobilise millions of their faithful to vote against the draft because it objects to the clauses on abortion and Kadhis courts.

They say the chapter on Kadhis courts (which already exists in the current Constitution) amounts to the elevation of one religion over another in a secular state. The courts, which handle divorce, inheritance, and other minor civil disputes for the Muslim community alone, are provided for as an Act of Parliament in the current Constitution.

The draft law states: “Abortion is not permitted unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.”

But the churches want this clause deleted because, according to them, it gives room to legalise abortion.

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Redeemed Gospel Churches Bishop Arthur Gitonga said they would embark on a fully fledged campaign for a ‘No’ vote.

He said: “Just like in 2005 when you doubted our capability to deliver a ‘No’ vote, I want to tell you that we have educated our flock and they are gearing to reject this Constitution”

Bishop Wanjiru accused a section of the mainstream churches of failing to offer leadership after they announced their support for the draft. 

“If there is a Christian even if he puts on a collar and he is advocating for the passage of this draft that is a person who doesn’t have God in him,” she said.

Last week President Mwai Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka together with other senior government officials met with a section of religious leaders in an attempt to sway them to support the Draft Constitution. The meeting ended in a stalemate forcing the parties to form a sub-committee which was mandated to come up with a solution to the contentious issues.

The group is due to meet again this week.

Elsewhere, Changamwe Member of Parliament Ramadhan Kajembe is terming the move by a section of legislators to oppose the Draft Constitution as hypocritical.

He said that the MPs had their chance to change the document in the August House but squandered the opportunity.

He stated that they should change their hard stance and support the document.

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“The Draft Constitution was passed in Parliament with the same politicians who are saying that they will vote No during the upcoming referendum,” he pointed out.

“They should stop their double-speak and Kenyans should ask them why they passed it and then later on began to oppose it,” he challenged.

He was speaking during a climate change forum where he pointed out that minor changes to the draft could be made after the referendum.

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