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Kenyan Christians Critical of Draft Constitution


Kenyan authorities have charged two members of parliament with inciting violence at a meeting to generate support for the country's new draft constitution. Reuben Ndolo and David Mwenje appeared in court today after spending Thursday night hiding in parliament to avoid arrest. The two have been released on bond. They are members of Kenya's ruling party but they oppose the new constitution. Kenyan police wanted to question them about the violence at Wednesday's meeting in Nairobi, where chairs were thrown and guns were reportedly fired.

Authorities have vowed to punish those provoking unrest in the increasingly violent campaign over a constitutional referendum set for November 21st. The document allows Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki to retain his wide-ranging powers. Opponents say it fails to establish a strong prime ministerial post, which they argue is needed to balance the president's authority.

The draft constitution also provides for the establishment of religiously based tribunals, including a “Khadi’s” court, or Islamic tribunal for Muslims. That provision has disturbed some in the Christian community, including Judy Madahana.

Ms. Madahana is a lawyer representing a coalition of churches called “The Church of Kenya,” which has come out against the new draft constitution.

She told English to Africa reporter William Eagle that Christians are concerned that they could be forced to appear before the Muslim courts, or that Christian women married to Muslims would not be able to inherit property under Islamic law.

She also says Christians are concerned about the draft constitution’s stand on abortion and same-sex marriage. The document says both are prohibited unless permitted by an act of parliament. Ms. Moadahana fears a small quorum of legislators – pressured by special interest groups – could approve of both measures. She says it would be a better idea to amend the old constitution, rather than introduce a new one at this time.

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