Yesterday’s big news from Kenya was the ruling by a court panel in a 2004 constitutional challenge to the Khadi’s Courts on grounds of discrimination and the separation of church and state. The 2004 plaintiffs were clergy, some of whom are involved in the current “No” campaign (and others not). The Attorney General has announced he will appeal, which will of course carry the case out beyond the date of the August 4 referendum on the new constitution.
While I am not a Kenyan lawyer, I think that the approval of a new constitution at the referendum would render the current case moot before reaching finality, but in the meantime, the ruling will surely energize the “No” campaign and give greater relative attention to the new draft constitution’s provisions continuing the Khadi’s courts for “family law” and related matters among Muslims on a consensual basis. Surveys have shown that large majorities of Kenyans find the draft constitution a mixed bag, with things they prefer and things they don’t, with the balance weighing in favor of the overall reform. This ruling could have some real impact on that balancing act.
As an American Christian I have been favorably impressed by the general ability of Kenya’s Christian majority and Muslim, traditional and other minorities to get along and live among each other respectfully relative to so much of the rest of the world. As with tribalism, this has the potential to be one more opportunity for politicians with wholly irreligious motives to exploit and divide based on emotions, especially fear.
Certainly the last thing the Kenyans need as they work through this is outsiders who also have other priorities injecting themselves and their money into the campaign.