30 November 2007

Kenya: Churches And Muslim Leaders Urge Rejection of Contentious Mou

Evangelical churches and some Muslim leaders want the contentious memorandum of understanding signed between presidential candidate Raila Odinga and an Islamic lobby group rescinded.

The agreement enjoins the National Muslim Leaders Forum (NAMLEF) to deliver the Muslim vote to Odinga in the December 27 election. Odinga will in return protect Muslim interests if he becomes president.

"The Church reiterates its stand that the MoU should be rejected by all Kenyans who believe in the equality of all without discrimination of the basis of religion," 14 evangelical leaders said in a statement on Wednesday.

On Thursday, another group of Muslim leaders and scholars, including officials of the Supreme Council of Muslims of Kenya (SUPKEM), opposed the pact, saying those who signed it were not the official voice of the faith community.

"NAMLEF leaders are laymen in Islam. They have no right whatsoever to speak on behalf of Muslims, and they are only associated with two regions, Coast and North Eastern provinces," said Mohammed Msallam, a Muslim scholar.

The 14 leaders of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya doubted the authenticity of the document that was made public, noting that the MoU was published nearly three months since its signing in August and only after considerable pressure from Kenyans.

Kenya is a democracy, they said, where the rights and responsibilities of all citizens regardless of religion, ethnicity, race or gender are guaranteed by the Constitution.

"Our Muslim brothers and sisters are full citizens of this republic and are entitled to those rights by virtue of this constitutional guarantee and not as a favour offered to them by a particular presidential candidate or political party," the church leaders said.

"It would be dangerous for our young democracy if any group that felt aggrieved were to sidestep the legal process and enter into secret MoUs with individual leaders. Such secret agreements pose a serious threat to constitutionalism and the rule of law."

The leaders further pointed out that in a democracy, the electoral process should be carried out above board, on the basis of party manifestos. They called on Odinga and NAMLEF to rescind their MoU and to "commit themselves to the strengthening of our constitutional democracy through participation in an open electoral process."

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