Kenya churches will 'respect' vote for constitution many opposed

Kenya churches will 'respect' vote for constitution many opposed

By Ecumenical News International
7 Aug 2010

Kenyan churches will respect the verdict of citizens who voted in favour of a new constitution for the east African nation which was opposed by many Christian leaders, says Kenyan Cardinal John Njue - writes Fredrick Nzwili.

"Kenyans have voted after having heard what the various people had to tell them," Njue told a 5 August 2010 media conference as preliminary results showed 68 per cent of voters supporting the new constitution in a referendum conducted the previous day.

"We respect the outcome of the referendum, where a larger number of Kenyans have voted to accept this proposed constitution," Njue, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Nairobi, said.

The new constitution places restrictions on the powers of the president and would institute a bill of rights for citizens. It was drawn up after violence claimed more than 1000 lives following a disputed election in 2007.

Still, many Christian leaders in Kenya campaigned against the document, because of clauses it contains that they say will allow abortion, entrench Muslim courts and limit freedom of worship.

The new fundamental law is a key measure in a pact negotiated between President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, former political foes who formed a coalition government following the violence that came after the December 2007 election.

The constitution also deals with corruption, and tackles land issues in a country where there are huge disparities in land ownership.

Cardinal Njue said the matters that had led church leaders to campaign against the law still stand.

"The truth and right are not about numbers," he said. "We therefore, as shepherds placed to give moral guidance to our people, still reiterate the need to address the flawed moral issues in this proposed constitution. That voice should never be silenced."

Some analysts said the churches had been able to show they were able to be involved in influencing political decisions, while others say they had weakened their credibility by taking a stand on this issue.

As results came in, some Protestant, Evangelical and Pentecostal church leaders questioned the way in which the campaign had been conducted.

"We are saddened by the fact that the pre-referendum process was marked by malpractices and irregularities which continued right into the balloting and tallying phases," said the Rev Peter Karanja, the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya.

The churches urged citizens to remain peaceful and united, and Karanja said they appreciated those who had voted against the text.

"The results do not in any way nullify these contentions. These must be resolved soonest since all Kenyans agree that the issues are contentious," he said.

Politicians who had opposed the draft conceded defeat, saying Kenyans had spoken in the poll.

"The majority have had their way… we have had our say," said William Ruto, the agriculture minister. "We urge the government to immediately start a process of dealing with the contentious issues."

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

[Ekk/3]

Keywords: kenya | kenyan
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