Kenya - from our reporter

Reform cleric slams Church in Kenya constitution row

Billie O'Kadameri

With just five days to Kenya’s landmark referendum on a new constitution, the country’s most well-known reform cleric Reverend Timothy Njoya, attacks Christian Church leaders for campaigning against the draft constitution in the vote next Wednesday.

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The Kenyan referendum campaigns have drawn in American political feuding as well, with 42 members of the US Congressional Black Caucus signing a statement accusing some US Republican officials and rightwing NGOs and faith groups of funding and siding with groups campaigning against the draft constitution.

The Head of the Anglican Church of Kenya Eliud Wabukalu says his group opposes the draft constitution on account of allowing Muslim courts and for being liberal on abortion and same sex relationship. But in a statement, he urged Kenyan voters to use their conscience at the ballot.

The influential Catholic Church on the hand came with guns blazing, strongly urging its supporters to reject the draft because it allows abortion if the mother’s life is in danger.

The Reverend Dr Timothy Njoya, the retired former head of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, is Kenya most well-known reform cleric, known for almost single-handedly leading the struggle to dismantle Kenya’s one-party political system in the 1990s and for leading the campaign for a new popular constitution voted for by all Kenyans.

At his home in Ngong town south-east of Nairobi, he accused the Church in Kenya of acting as an off-shoot of right-wing western groups, calling it an anti-people institution serving foreign interests.

Timothy Njoya said there is nothing too contentious in the draft to have generated such opposition from the mainstream churches.

Njoya accuses the Christian right in the United States of funding campaigns against the constitution.

“In Kenya this Bush ideology caught on just recently. Pat Robertson [a prominent spokesperson for the Christian right in the US] admits he has paid millions of shillings to the people in Kenya to fight against this draft, so the Church appears black on the outside but inside it is white” he told RFI.

Njoya adds that the rift between Muslims and Christians in his country is a recent one. “After 9/11, Bush said there was a war between Christianity and Islam and the Church in Kenya adopted the Bush prescription and started fighting. But Muslims and Christians have never fought before even in Nigeria, never since British colonialism.”

The campaigns for and against the draft constitution have entered the final stretch, with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and all politicians supporting the draft addressing dozens of rallies per day across the country.

Those seeking a rejection and led by Higher Education Minister William Ruto and retired President Daniel Arap Moi are also making last-minute whistle-stops around the country, hoping to swing the vote in their favour.
 

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