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Opinion: Divisive issues may sink Kenya's constitution

Opponents to abortion and Islamic courts may cause voters to reject proposed constitution.

The second potentially divisive issue in the proposed constitution, an issue that divides many countries around the world, is abortion. Recent polls have shown that 69 percent of Kenyans oppose abortion. In light of that fact, Kenya’s Committee of Experts on Constitutional Review attempted to write a compromise into the proposed constitution.

While the proposed constitution states that “the life of a person begins at conception,” traditionally pro-life wording, the same section permits abortion if a trained health professional deems it necessary in an emergency situation, or if “the life or health of the mother is in danger.” Because law and judges define health broadly, this section essentially permits abortion on demand. Abortion could be the issue that leads this proposed constitution to its demise.

The final divisive issue is that of devolution, a plan in the proposed constitution that will transfer some power from the national government to newly established regional governments.

Kenyans are concerned that the cost of regional governments will damage Kenya’s already deteriorating economy and that operation of these new regional governments will prove unworkable. Regardless of religious belief or political inclinations, all Kenyans are worried about whether this colossal undertaking is realistic in Kenya’s current political climate.

The American Center for Law & Justice, the organization where I direct international operations, recently opened the East Africa Centre for Law & Justice in Nairobi.

“Kenya’s church leaders and other Christian lobbyists have come out condemning the provisions on Kadhis’ courts and abortion and promising that the Christian block will vote down the draft,” said attorney Joy Mdivo, executive director. They did it in 2005 and because the drafters of the proposed constitution were deaf to their concerns as this constitution was being drafted, they just might be able to do it again.

Kenya’s proposed constitution will now engage in an uphill battle against Kenya’s grassroots Christian leaders. We’ll know in August if these issues will cause a second draft constitution to be rejected by Kenya's voters.

Jordan Sekulow is an attorney and Director of International Operations at the American Center for Law & Justice. He oversees the group’s work in the Middle East, Africa and Pakistan.