Church leaders call for referendum

Catholic leaders yesterday proposed that the contentious issues in the draft constitution be subjected to a referendum.

These include the structure of the Executive (Executive President vis-a-vis Executive Prime Minister), Devolution, Transition and the Kadhis’ Courts.

A statement from the Kenya Episcopal Conference, signed by 29 Bishops, said the best way forward for the draft constitution would be to let Kenyans decide on what they wanted.

The bishops said: "We urge the people to rise above tribal, ethnic and regional sentiments that would jeopardise our unity."

The clergymen issued the statement after a meeting at the J.J. McCarthy Centre, Nairobi.

Among those who signed the statement were Bishop Cornelius Korir (Eldoret), archbishops Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki (Nairobi), John Njenga (Mombasa), Zacchaeus Okoth (Kisumu) Nicodemus Kirima (Nyeri) and John Njue (Co-adjutor, Nyeri).

Others were Bishops Philip Sulumeti (Kakamega), Philip Anyolo (Homa Bay), Peter Kairo (Nakuru), Alfred Rotich (Military Ordinariate), Maurice Crowley (Kitale), Norman Wambua (Bungoma) and Boniface Lele (Kitui).

They raised questions over the divisions in Narc, and asked whether they were driven by reasons beyond what Kenyans knew.

"Is it a result of the failed MoU? Is it a result of the ongoing judicial inquiries — Goldenberg or the Ouko Parliamentary Committee probe?" they asked.

Meanwhile, other church leaders threatened to mobilise Christians to reject the draft constitution over the contentious issue of the Kadhis’ courts.

"We wish to state categorically that if the courts are still embodied in the draft, we reject the constitution, no matter how good it may be," 34 clergymen told journalists after a meeting at the Anglican Church of Kenya Nairobi headquarters.

As much as Muslims were free to exercise their faith and set up courts within their places of worship, the mention of specific religions and their institutions must be left out of the Constitution.

The meeting called under the umbrella of The Kenya Churches Federation maintained that Kadhis’ courts were religious units that should not be entrenched in the Constitution of a multi-religious nation like Kenya.

Dr David Githii, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, read the statement. Present were bishops Silas Yego (AIC), Arthur Kitonga (Redeemed Gospel), Mark Kariuki (Deliverance Church) and Stephen Kanyaru (Methodist Church).

Others were Bishop William Tuimising (Deliverance Church), Boniface Adoyo (Christ is the Answer), the Rev John Rono (Africa Gospel Church), Father Vincent Wambugu (Catholic Episcopal Conference) and Bishop Margaret Wanjiru (Jesus is Alive Ministries).

Kigumo MP Kihara Mwangi, the Rev David Oginde (Nairobi Pentecostal Church) and the Rev Patrick Murunga (Good Shepherd Africa Gospel Church) were also present.

The clergymen took issue with the recent arrest of Christian leaders in Mombasa, who led a demonstration against the Kadhis’ courts.

"We strongly condemn this action, especially the unwarranted violence meted out on church leaders, who were marching peacefully," said the church leaders.

They demanded unconditional release of the demonstrators and termination of the cases against them.

The clergymen argued that the draft constitution made Islam the "State religion" as Kadhis’ courts would be established throughout Kenya and funded by the Government.