27 November 2009

Kenya: Anglicans Oppose Kadhi Courts

Nairobi — The Anglican Church has asked for the removal of the Kadhi courts from the harmonised draft constitution, saying it amounts to "the elevation of one religion over the rest."

The church's top decision-making organ, the House of Bishops, said it would petition the Committee of Experts on the Constitution to have the clause on the courts removed from the law currently under public debate.

Speaking at a press conference at the Jumuia Conference Centre Friday, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala said the constitution of the Muslim courts should be left to the discretion of Parliament.

"We ask the experts to remove the Kadhi courts from the constitution in total since Parliament has the power to create the courts through legislation," said Rev Wabukala.

The Anglicans become the first mainstream church to oppose the inclusion of the courts and their opposition is likely to energise clerics who have vehemently rallied their flock against the new law if they are to be included in it.

Unlike the evangelical churches, however, Rev Wabukala did not threaten to rally the church's members against the draft, which will likely be subjected to a referendum in March next year.

"The Constitution should not be contradicted by elevating one religion above the rest. We also support equality but we feel Parliament can make use of the section that gives it the power to create special courts," said Rev Wabukala.

The church had also opposed the inclusion of the courts in their recommendations to the team that has written the draft and the head of the church in Kenya said a decision would be made when the next draft is made public.

The bishops made the statement on a wide range of issues currently affecting Kenyans at the end of a two-day meeting at the idyllic countryside conference centre in Limuru, about 30 kilometres from Nairobi.

Rev Wabukala said the bishops at the meeting had, however, liked the draft constitution and had prepared a raft of changes they would like to be made to it.

They also want the 30-day period given for the submission of comments and recommended changes extended on the basis that too few Kenyans have seen the draft two weeks after its release.

Among the changes contained in a memorandum they will present to the experts led by Nzamba Kitonga are the clarification on the hierarchy of the two levels of Parliament and the requirement that members of the senate be elected directly by the people.

They also want it made clear who between the Prime Minister and the President will be in charge of the country.

The draft law says presidents will be elected directly by the people but the prime minister will be elected by MPs and will have executive authority.

Rev Wabukala said the section requiring High Court and Court of Appeal judges to be vetted and re-appointed if clean once the new law comes into force should be removed unless the Executive and Parliament would also be subjected to the same treatment.

Their opposition to the section on the Judiciary also resonates with that expressed by judges, who have asked for it to be removed as it would be the equivalent of the 'radical surgery' that ended the careers of some of them in 2004.

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