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Kenyan leaders asks Catholic Bishops to keep off the majimbo debate.

Posted by African Press International on October 31, 2007

Commentary

Dear Kenyans,

Below is an extract of the daily nation on leaders asking Catholic Bishops to keep off the majimbo debate. I belong to none of the major religions and it is my hope that Kenya will continue to be a secular state where all religions including non-believers are treated equally. However, I have the following fears which I think need to be looked into by all sober Kenyans across political divides.

1. Raila Odinga enjoyed my outmost support since I believed he was an atheist (and I respect his freedom of choice to belong to any religion), and as such would be best placed to treat all religions equally as he would owe allegiance to none of them. ?However, he has signed a secret MOU with Muslim clerics. My worry is on what the contents of this MOU are and does it place the Muslims above others in Kenya? If the MOU is fair to all Kenyans, why not make it public?

2. We have clearly seen Muslim leaders like Abdilahi Abdi issuing statements like the one below and claiming to talk on behalf of Muslims. Why hasn?t LSK and political leaders told him and his religious organization to keep off politics and let Muslims freely make their choices? When as in the article below they say that they are campaigning for ODM, aren?t they being partisan? Why can?t the leaders and other organizations tell them that religion and politics are different? It seems like its ok for Muslims to back one party but not ok for other faiths to do the same.

3. We recently watched the catholic bishops being called ?? these characters?? by one political leader. Do we hold those with different opinions as low as this and refer to them as ??characters??. Would any politician in Kenya dare refer to the Muslim religious leaders as ??these characters?? or do we hold Muslim preachers in special ?awe? above other religious leaders. Why can?t we respect the bishops despite them not supporting the same views as we stand for?

4. Since Muslim clerics have signed an MOU with Raila, if ODM does not win the elections and his rivals win, do the rivals have any obligation to treat the Muslims the same as the rest of the Kenyans? I fear and hope that we don?t get a rouge non ODM president who may decide to go out of his way to teach the Muslims a lesson for siding with his opponents.

5. For smaller groups that can not materially influence voting patterns, with who shall we sign an MOU? I for instance could be an atheist who respects other faiths very much. If Muslims sign special MOUs with politicians so as to advance the Muslim demands, how will the rights of the atheist be advanced? What will stop religious groups backing political outfits on the promise of one religion being given special rights? Why can?t our leaders promise all of us equal rights irrespective of our religions? The oath of a leader should be to protect all Kenyans and treat all, ranging from Christians, Muslims, atheists etc as equal before the laws of the land.

6. As for the professional groups and other religions, why are you slow on demanding that the MOU between Raila and Muslim leaders be made public so that we non Muslims can know what to expect when that MOU is implemented. The MOU could be skewed to favor a few and our only chance to correct is now. Are Muslim leaders blackmailing a future government by committing its leaders to demands which the public is not party to? How does Raila (assuming he becomes president) sign an MOU or treaty on behalf of all the Kenyans with one religion, without consulting the rest of the Kenyans and more so keep the contents of that MOU secret.

Can all religious groups be sober and non partisan in giving their opinions on political issues in Kenya? Let both the Muslim and Christian leader remain neutral and simply give advice to their followers and not declare what side they support. The common Kenyans have enough brains to choose their destiny without dragging religion into it otherwise after elections, the major fight will start e.g. If ODM wins, some Christians will be quick to label it a Muslim government while some Muslims will be claiming that were it not for their support, the ODM team would have lost and as such, Muslims will demand special recognition. If Kibaki wins, and he is catholic, many will be quick to condemn the catholic bishops as the cause of the win and some Christian fanatics will be quick in telling Muslims ?? serikali ni yetu and we are going to fix you.??

The time is now for all sober Kenyan to demand that religion and state be kept apart. I want a Kenya where religion is a personal matter but not an issue of national politics. What faith I profess should be my own business and the law should treat us equally. Let us think beyond elections.

By Njoroge

Below is the extract of the Daily Nation referred to in the article above. The African Press will decide if to print it or not.

Kenya: Leaders Ask Catholic Church to Be Non-Partisan

Nairobi

The Catholic Church was yesterday asked to stop making political statements in the run-up to the December 27 General Election.

A cross section of leaders, who included ODM presidential candidate Raila Odinga, the chairman of the Law Society of Kenya, Mr. Okong’o Omogeni, Anglican Church of Kenya Mombasa Bishop Julius Kalu, outgoing Narok South MP William ole Ntimama, and the chairman of the National Muslim Forum, told Cardinal-designate John Njue to remain non-partisan during the campaigns, after the Catholic church in Kenya asked its faithful to reject the majimbo system.

But Archbishop Njue, who is also the chairman of the Kenya Episcopal Conference, was backed by Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi who said Kenyans needed a devolved unitary system and not federalism as proposed by ODM and ODM Kenya, whose presidential candidate is Mr. Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka.

Mr. Odinga reminded the head of the Catholic church in Kenya that he was among the more than 600 delegates who attended, debated a

nd endorsed the Bomas Draft constitution, which advocated the majimbo system.

Contrary opinions

Said the ODM leader: “It is now surprising that they (Catholic bishops) are now turning around to give contrary opinions. It is all in a name, because they fear the name majimbo, but you cannot ran away from it. I will be emphasising on the details at a later date.”

Mr. Omogeni also asked the Catholic bishops, who issued the call in a controversial pastoral letter on Thursday, to desist from meddling in politics on the eve of the General Election.

Said Mr. Omogeni: “I would like to advice the Catholic bishops to instead receive views from the proponents and the opponents of majimbo before making their stand public.”

Mr. Ntimama asked the bishops to reconsider their stand and allow their members to freely decide on whether to support the majimbo proposals.

But Archbishop Nzimbi threw his weight behind the Catholic bishops, saying he was uncomfortable with the word majimbo because it had taken a strong political connotation.

He said: “I will support devolution when we meet as the House of Bishops before we come up with a pastoral letter.”

The archbishop said Kenyans needed more time to understand the full meaning and implication of such a system.

The National Muslim Leaders Forum, chaired by Mr Abdillahi Abdi, said the forum fully supported the majimbo system, saying it would benefit its members and people in North Eastern Province.

Mr Abdi also said the forum supported ODM and would ensure that it campaigned for it to win at the polls.

In South Nyanza, Muslim leaders accused Catholic bishops of campaigning for the re-election of the President under the pretext of opposing the majimbo system.

Led by Mr Ebrahim Omar Hussein, they asked the clerics to allow their flock to freely choose which party to back at the General Election.

Scaring Kenyans

The chairman of the unregistered Islamic Party of Kenya, Sheikh Mohamed Khalifa accused the Catholic church of trying to scare Kenyans into voting for the Government by claiming that majimbo would create ethnic chaos in the country.

He challenged the prelate to tell Kenyans where in the world majimbo had created chaos.

“It is those who are saying that majimbo will cause chaos that are guilty of inciting Kenyans to violence,” he said.

He also took issue with President Kibaki for “creating too many districts”, and wondered where the Government was going to get money to run them.

Elsewhere, ODM Presidential running mate Musalia Mudavadi yesterday said Kenyans would decide whether to go the majimbo way once the party came to power.

This would be done by way of a referendum, he said.

“The ODM government will subject any policy issue that created public confidence crisis to legal consultations and constitutional provisions,” he said.

“Roses are red, violets are blue, God made me cute, what happened to YOU?” By Njoroge

Published by API/APN africanpress@chello.no tel +47 932 99 739 or +47 6300 2525

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