Church leaders have criticized a controversial suggestion by Kenya President Daniel arap Moi to hang those who "knowingly or deliberately" infect others with the HIV virus.

The president made his remark to reporters on arrival in Nairobi from the United Nations HIV/AIDS summit in New York last month. His statement came after Kenya's attorney general indicated that a bill soon to be brought before the parliament would include harsh treatment for those who deliberately infected others with HIV.

Anglican Archbishop David Gitari said it was imperative that the matter be debated thoroughly before any bill was brought before lawmakers. "The president has initiated an important debate," he said. "This matter requires wide discussion and debate because it would be difficult to know those who have spread HIV deliberately."

"God did not pronounce capital punishment on Cain after he killed his brother Abel," Gitari said, noting that most other countries had abolished capital punishment. Capital punishment exists in Kenya for murder and armed robbery.

The archbishop also took issue with an assertion by Moi that the churches had not done enough about the pandemic disease. He said as early as 1990 the churches had established a program to sensitize people about AIDS. However, the churches did not have sufficient resources to tackle the challenges of the disease. AIDS is currently claiming the lives of about 500 Kenyans every day.

Catholic Bishop John Njue, the chairman of the Episcopal Conference said, "Hanging is capital punishment which the church opposed because life is God given and no authority has the right to take it."

Clergy have previously accused Moi's government of failing to enact laws against what they called outmoded practices ...

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