Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Kenya Churches have laid the battle ground with the government after pulling out of talks over contentious issues in the draft constitution.

The Kenya Christian Church Leaders Wednesday read mischief and lack of political will on the part of the government during their meetings, which culminated in the Cabinet's move on Tuesday to rule out any changes to the proposed law before the referendum.

"Having participated in three meetings with the government, we not with sadness that the greatest hindrance to a resolution of the contentious issues is not legal technicalities but rather the lack of political will," said a statement read by National Council of Churches of Kenya secretary general Canon Peter Karanja, on behalf of 17 churches, at Ufungamano House, Nairobi.

"We indeed are now convinced that the government's call for consultations was meant for purposes other than resolving the cardinal issues in the draft."

He said that the draft, which is awaiting publication by Attorney General Amos Wako, "faces a blanket rejection by Christians at the referendum".

"We therefore inform Kenyans that the Church will not continue engaging in the talks and will instead focus her energies on educating the people of Kenya on the meaning and implications of the cardinal issues and campaigning for the rejection of the draft."

But in a dramatic turn of events, the leaders went into a meeting with government representatives at Harambee House, Nairobi just hours after their announcement that the talks had collapsed.

It was not immediately clear what the agenda of the meeting, currently on going, is.

On Tuesday, the Cabinet ruled out any amendments on the draft since the timetable leading to the referendum was set and said it was "practically impossible at this stage to amend the Constitution of Kenya or Constitution Review Act in order to accommodate concerns expressed by Christian Church leaders and others".

"We advice all Kenyans to vote against this draft constitution at the referendum since the cabinet closed the door that would have costed nobody anything," read the statement.

The Church wants the clause on abortion and kadhis' courts removed from the draft and have vowed to rally Christians to shoot down the new law if their conditions are not met.

A meeting scheduled on Monday between government and Church representatives failed after the former requested more time.

The Church objects to the section of Article 26, which empowers doctors to end a pregnancy if it endangers the woman's life or she needs emergency treatment.

Christian leaders are also opposed to the retention of kadhis' courts in the proposed Constitution under Article 169 and 170, which limit their authority to disputes over personal status, marriage, divorce or inheritance, where all the parties are Muslims and agree to take the case to a Kadhi.

On Wednesday, the Churches said other issues it wanted addressed included: the right to determine employment on the basis of one's religion has been compromised; the Bill of Rights is adulterated to exempt persons professing Muslim faith; the principle of equal treatment of all religions by State has been removed, among others.

The Church will be joined in its battle with the State by the No campaigners led by Higher Education minister William Ruto, who is leading a group of politicians opposed to the document.

Mr Ruto says the draft is flawed especially on its provisions on land, devolution and the Executive. His vocal opposition to the proposed constitution led to his being moved from the powerful Agriculture docket to his new posting in a mini-Cabinet reshuffle last week.

He, however, maintained that he will not relent in his push to mobilise Kenyans to vote No at the referendum.

But, the Cabinet decision could prove decisive since Mr Ruto is bound by collective responsibility and he would be forced to resign if he were to continue his No campaign.

The Churches also took issue with the media accusing it of skewed coverage in favour of the Yes campaign and urged the Press to give Kenyans a chance to determine their destiny freely.

"The .....demeaning media coverage made against people opposed to the draft is unjust and should cease forthwith."

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