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 draft, the Ufungamano document resulted from prayer and fellowship," said David Githii, head of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA). "Bomas proposals are unworkable because they were inspired by hunger for power."

Besides the PCEA, members of the initiative include the Catholic Church in Kenya, the Anglican Church, the Methodist Church, and the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK).

Mutava Musyimi, secretary general of the NCCK, resigned as a delegate to the assembly on February 7. He does not expect the assembly to come up with a nonpartisan constitution.

"Delegates have sided with different political factions and are not willing to consider any issue on merit. There is a lot of intolerance, and you cannot write a constitution in such an atmosphere."

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A new constitution is supposed to become law by June.

Related Elsewhere:

More information is available from articles in several online Kenyan newspapers.

Christians in protest against Kadhis courts | Traffic came to a standstill in the Nairobi Central Business District yesterday as Christians made a historic public demonstration against Kadhis' courts (The East African Standard, Nairobi, Kenya)
We will not interfere with Bomas | Following is the government statement issued yesterday. (The East African Standard, Nairobi)
109 MPs rally behind Bomas draft | The Leader of Official Opposition Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday led 110 MPs in throwing their support behind the Bomas National Constitutional Conference. (The East African Standard, Nairobi)
Kibaki blow as Bomas passes draft stripping president of powers | The effect of the vote would be to make Kibaki a ceremonial President by June, if the new Constitution is passed on schedule. The draft creates the office of a powerful prime minister who will be the head of government. (The East African Standard, Nairobi)
Ruling to be made on Bomas III case | Three judges will next Thursday deliver judgement in a case in which Reverend Timothy Njoya and six others are challenging the constitutionality of the Bomas III talks. The judges will give their ruling on March 25 one week after the Bomas conference adjourns. The Bomas III talks will end on March 19. (The East African Standard, Nairobi)
It's make-or-break for Bomas in vote today | The constitutional review is today facing the crunch as delegates gather for a pivotal vote at the Bomas of Kenya on the compromise hammered out by the Bishop Sulumeti committee. (The Nation, Nairobi)
Gideon, Raila accused of plot to bring down Kibaki | Baringo Central MP Gideon Moi and Cabinet minister Raila Odinga are plotting to bring down the government of President Mwai Kibaki, Kabete MP Paul Muite claimed yesterday. (The East African Standard, Nairobi)
Rewriting Constitution has not been as easy as ABC | The agitation for a new constitution dates as far back the late 1980's and early 1990's. It coincided with the clamour for the re-introduction of a multi-party system of Government. Ever since, it has been dogged by controversies, broken promises, apparent sabotage and intrigue. (The Nation, Nairobi)
Ufungamano demands that Ghai quits Bomas | The Ufungamano group yesterday demanded the resignation of Constitution of Kenya Review Commission chairman Yash Pal Ghai and secretary PLO Lumumba, charging that they had taken sides in the Bomas talks. (The East African Standard, Nairobi)
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Christians in protest against Kadhis courts | The march, which kicked off at around 12.30 pm, was led by the Chairman of the Kenya Church, the Federation of Churches in Kenya, Rev Dr Jesse Kamau and Bishop Jafferson Nyatuka of Pentecostal Church of God. They want a referendum on the whole Constitution document, especially the Kadhi's courts, which they said should not be entrenched in the Constitution. (The East African Standard, Nairobi)

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