Kenya: Titanic Referendum Battle Looms

While the politicians are flexing their muscles on the proposed constitution, the second largest Church in the land has declared an unequivocal No on the proposed constitution.The clerics countered Attorney General, Amos Wako’s speed to publish the proposed constitution by the Churches’ launching the ‘No’ campaign in Mombasa and Nairobi.All bishops from the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) reached the decision after a day-long meeting in Nairobi as the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) made a similar announcement in Mombasa.

The ACK’s decision follows a similar one by the Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Church two weeks ago when they demanded for removal of any reference to abortion in the draft.Meanwhile NCCK announced that it had formally launched its no campaign against the proposed law after meeting in Mombasa.The ACK declared it would only support it if concerns by religious leaders were addressed.Drawing parallels with the biblical verse “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” ACK Archbishop Eliud Wabukala said, “The Constitution is meant for Kenya, not Kenya for the Constitution,” stressing the need to bridge the gulf on the referendum vote.ACK said it was ‘appalled’ by the Cabinet decision that amendments were “practically impossible” before the referendum, adding the Cabinet was not a statutory organ of review process.

“The instruments of review according to the Review Act are clearly spelt out and the Cabinet is not one of them. Their declarations are therefore in our opinion misplaced, unconstitutional and an attempt at dictating the outcome of the referendum,” said the statement read at All Saints Cathedral.The Government took a common position to support the draft at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday where it was agreed that it was too late to amend the draft.Mr Wako, who is riding on the crest of leading the best performing Ministry after the State Law Office was ranked best performer, said he would publish the draft next week for the referendum to be held in 90 days. “When I received the document from Parliament I stated that I had 30 days to publish it and that I would do so before the 30 days ended,” said Wako.

Church leaders have now decided to embark on a vicious campaign against the draft to defeat the document at the referendum.The Church has been left with a bitter taste in the mouth after its leadership appeared to have been duped into engaging in a time wasting exercise by the Government, thus laying the stage for a titanic duel between the Yes and No camps in the country.Church leaders asked the two leaders to invoke powers bestowed to them by the 2008 National Accord to order for a consensus building process.They had expected Kibaki and Raila to invoke executive authority and order for consensus, which could have resulted in Wako handing over the document to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitution Review.

Speaking at Shanzu Teachers Training College in Mombasa during a church leaders’ conference, NCCK General Secretary the Reverend Canon Peter Karanja announced the launch of the ‘No’ campaign by churches and warned the State it would face its wrath at the referendum.The umbrella body for most protestant churches expressed confidence it would hand the State a humiliating defeat at the referendum.Canon Karanja said the church was a big constituency, which the State cannot afford to ignore, adding that it had spent time negotiating for amendment of the draft so that the country could go to the referendum united.

“Now that the State has shut the door on amending the draft before the referendum, we have launched the ‘No’ campaign and we are asking Kenyans to vote ‘No’. We have the numbers,” Karanja warned. He said NCCK’s strength at the referendum would be its 25 denominations, 13 church institutions and member Christians whom it would use to tilt the vote.The Religious leaders resolved that to hold a national prayer rally at Uhuru Park on May 8th, which they said would be to spiritually support Kenyans as they prepare to make and all important decision during the referendum, scheduled for July, this year.

While numerical strength may be something the Churches could boast of, the Church leaders will have to contend with the reality of a poll conducted recently in the country that showed that the majority of Kenyans supported the proposed draft of the constitution.

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