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 CNS Story:

KENYA-CONSTITUTION Jul-30-2010 (350 words) xxxi

Bishops, others push Kenyans to vote against proposed constitution

By Francis Njuguna
Catholic News Service

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- Kenyan Christian leaders -- including the nation's Catholic bishops -- urged citizens to vote against the proposed constitution, saying it "takes away your sovereignty, now and forever."

"The proposed constitution in its current form is not good for the country," they said.

After an ecumenical prayer service at Nairobi's Holy Family Minor Basilica July 30, more than 20 Christian leaders issued a statement calling upon "each and every Kenyan to turn up in large numbers, to exercise their democratic right to vote, and to display their patriotism for our country and convincingly vote no to this flawed proposed constitution."

About 12 million Kenyans are expected to vote in the Aug. 4 constitutional referendum.

The bishops repeatedly have opposed the draft on the grounds that it could legalize abortion and allow for the entrenchment of Islamic courts.

"The proposed constitution does not safeguard the sacredness of human life, the sound and moral education of our children and religious equality," said the Christian leaders' statement.

The document would keep abortion illegal but includes exceptions if, "in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law."

The document also limits the powers of the Kenyan presidency and includes sections on judicial reform, land reform and an end to impunity.

The Christian leaders urged Kenyans not to be swayed by bribes. They urged Muslims to join them in voting against the document and told anyone who planned to vote for it to "see the light and, like the proverbial prodigal son, come back home, where we shall embrace you and celebrate you."

They said they appreciated support from other parts of the world but told people they needed "non-interference in this important event that requires the deep reflection of Kenyans."

"There will be no cause to celebrate, regardless of whether the proposed draft is accepted or rejected," the Christian leaders said, urging the government to keep the country unified and to protect its citizens after the referendum.


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