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Kenya adopts new constitution over church protests: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 13, 2010 p 5. August 18, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Anglican Church of Kenya, Church of England Newspaper, Politics.
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President Mwai Kibaki

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

hurch leaders in Kenya have voiced disappointment over the approval of the country’s draft constitution in a national referendum held on Aug 4, but have pledged to support the outcome of the vote.

“The historic journey that we began over 20 years ago is now coming to a happy end,” President Mwai Kibaki said in a nationally broadcast address on Aug 5.  “Let us all join hands together to as we begin the process of national renewal under the new constitution.”

Almost 70 percent of the country’s 12 million voters supported the document, which will replace the constitution drawn up at independence in 1963.  The new constitution reduces the power of the president, setting up a system of checks and balances among the executive, the judiciary and parliament, and devolves power to the regional and local governments, while also creating a commission to begin work on the contentious issue of land reform.

Church leaders had objected, however, to provisions in the document that allow Muslims to set up a government backed Sharia court system, while Section 26 of the constitution included language which allowed abortions when in the “opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.”

The Catholic Church had called upon its members to vote ‘no’, while Anglican Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, who that while he would vote ‘no’, Anglicans were free to “vote their conscience.”

In a pastoral letter released after the preliminary results were announced, Cardinal John Njue and the Catholic Bishops Conference said, that while respecting the outcome, “truth and right are not about numbers. We therefore, as the shepherds placed to give moral guidance to our people, still reiterate the need to address the flawed moral issues in this proposed constitution. That voice should never be silenced.”

Education Minister William Ruto, the leader of the ‘no’ coalition, said his side would accept the outcome of the election. He called on the government to engage in negotiations over the parts the clauses on abortion and land ownership, and address the root causes of the tensions that led to violence and social unrest after the 2007 elections.

“You cannot just go and tell people ‘live together nicely, now forgive each other’ when in fact somebody lost his parents or lost his land or business and yet nothing has been done about it,” Bethuel Kiplagat, chairman of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, told Reuters AlertNet.

“We have to approach it through the healing of the individual and communities. If nothing is done about them; an acknowledgement, counseling and reparations.  I am afraid the seeds of the next conflict are dormant, waiting to explode again,” he said.

A date for the promulgation of the new document is to be announced with 14 days of the vote.  After the promulgation, parliament will be prorogued while top leaders will be required to take fresh oaths of office. In three months, parliament will form committees to implement the new law.

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