Church adamant on No vote in new law

Bishop Titus Khamala (right) of Cornerstone Ministries in Kenya on Monday praised Parliament for passing the draft constitution and urged other Christian religious leaders and the public to vote for the new set of laws. He spoke during an Easter service at Shibuli Cornerstone Church in Kakamega. Photo/ISAAC WALE

Christian religious leaders on Monday insisted that they would oppose the draft constitution because of clauses on the kadhis’ courts and abortion.

Speaking only a day after President Kibaki had beseeched them to back the draft, which was approved by Parliament on Thursday and now awaits final endorsement at the referendum, the leaders vowed to campaign against the document.

And reaction from some Catholic and Anglican leaders suggested splits in the two main Christian faiths as junior clergy differed with their superiors.

The Church objects to Article 26 which empowers doctors to end a pregnancy if it endangers the woman’s life or if 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.

ACK bishop Thomas Kogo of Eldoret differed with Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, saying the draft went against the wishes of Kenyans.

The archbishop has reportedly asked Kenyans to support the draft as the document is better than the current one.

He said the kadhis’ courts should not make Christians vote against the draft because the courts were in the current Constitution.

Archbishop Wabukala suggested that contentious clauses could be amended later.

But speaking on Sunday at St Mathews’ ACK, Bishop Kogo, who was accompanied by Provost John Rotech and the Rev Evelyn Jerotich, said the House of Bishops was yet to meet and agree on a common position.

Bishop Kogo said: “He gave his personal opinion about the draft, which should not be interpreted as the stand of all church.”

He supported John Cardinal Njue’s view that all religions were equal and none should be given preferential treatment in the Constitution.

NCCK Busia branch chairman Isaiah Obuya said: “If Busia MPs failed to remove the clause last week, what guarantee do we have that they will amend it in future?”

MPs and religious groups were asked to sign an MoU committing themselves to amend contentious clauses after the referendum.

Activist Okiya Omtatah also defended the position taken by the churches but said they should emulate the Christian God and “not destroy the righteous along with the wicked” by rejecting the draft.

Outspoken Kericho Catholic priest Ambrose Kimutai differed with his superiors and supported the draft.

Speaking in Litein Town, Fr Kimutai declared: “As a Catholic priest it is pointless to oppose the draft yet as an individual, I have suffered for fighting reforms during Kanu days. Those opposed to the draft will not succeed.”

Muslim leaders and MPs are expected to converge in Nairobi this week to discuss the draft constitution and take a common stand.

Reported by John Ngirachu, Ouma Wanzala, Dennis Odunga, Kitavi Mutua, Tom Matoke, James Ngunjiri, Benedict Tirop, Elisha Otieno and Anthony Kitimo


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