Mixing Religion and Politics

Churches attempt to overcome constitutional stalemate

Church leaders are hoping to break a deadlock that threatens to scuttle the country's precarious attempt to rewrite the constitution.

In December 2002 elections, Mwai Kibaki and his opposition National Rainbow Coalition trounced Daniel arap Moi's ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU), which had governed the country since independence in 1963.

Now the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC) assembly, called Bomas, has been paralyzed by division among the 629 delegates about the type of government the country should adopt. Some, including Raila Odinga, the minister for roads and public works, want to move toward a parliamentary system with a powerful prime minister. Kibaki and several officials loyal to him want to retain the presidential system. They accuse Odinga of trying to grab power through the constitutional assembly.

Members of an interdenominational group, called the Ufungamano Initiative, have written an alternative constitution that they say will help the constitutional assembly proceed.

The churches' draft constitution supports retaining the current system. But it argues that the best way to check the excesses of the presidency does not lie in neutering the executive branch but in empowering the legislature and the judiciary. Proponents of the prime ministerial system have dismissed the church leaders as government stooges.

"The church has no special role in the constitution rewriting process," said the CKRC chairman, Yash Pal Ghai. "They are an interested party, like all other parties, and should not attempt to impose their views on the country."

The churches, which celebrated the defeat of KANU in 2002, deny taking sides. Leaders insist that Christians have a moral duty to offer solutions.

"Unlike the Bomas ...

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Mixing Religion and Politics
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April 2004

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