KENYA: Anglican church wants constitution vote postponed

July 9, 2010

The Anglican Church of Kenya has called on the East African nation's government to reschedule a referendum on a proposed constitution, set for August 4, in the interests of peace in the country.

The church's bishops, led by Archbishop Eluid Wabukala, cautioned that Kenya is at a crossroads and risks falling apart if things continue as they are.

"Given the mood of the nation, we see postponement of the referendum with a view to building a consensus is, in the long term, in the best interest of the nation," Wabukala told journalists after the church's synod meeting in Nairobi on July 8.

Fear, anxiety, confusion, suspicion and apathy have gripped the nation before the vote, according to the church leader. He said the stakes had been raised, creating an environment similar to the time prior to the 2007 poll and the 2008 post election period when violence erupted leading to deaths of 1,300 people.

"We prayed and fasted as we cried out to God to save our country from civil strife. We do not want to risk a repeat of these events," said Wabukala.

Although most Kenyan churches accuse the government of forcing the proposed constitution on its citizens, the Anglican leader urged the authorities to open dialogue and build consensus on narrowing the growing gap between the government and faith groups.

Christian leaders have opposed the proposed constitution, saying it permits abortion, entrenches an Islamic legal system known as Kadhi courts, and restricts freedom of worship.

"We shall have lost out on the reason for a new constitution, if the people adopt it without taking it to heart," Wabukala said. "Let every Kenyan be driven by the vision of united people, a people who are very aware of their shared humanity and the beauty of diversity."

The Anglican church, while standing by its opposition to the draft constitution, stresses that whether it passes or is rejected, there will be aggrieved citizens whose concerns cannot be ignored.

"Such a scenario will not augur well for the future of the nation," said Wabukala. "There should be no victor or vanquished in a constitution-making process."

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