By Fredrick Nzwili
Nairobi, 18 May (ENI)–Allegations by Kenyan churches that the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is funding the government-backed “yes” campaign for a constitutional referendum in the East African country are being raised by American lawmakers.
In a letter to inspectors general of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office, legislators Chris Smith of New Jersey, Darrell Issa of California and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida have outlined their concerns.
The three U.S. legislators are calling for a probe into the issue, Kenya’s Star daily newspaper reported on 16 May. The report follows two week of allegations by Kenya’s churches, which are advocating a “no” vote in the referendum scheduled for 4 August.
Kenya’s churches say the draft law opens the door to the legalisation of abortion and also back the provision of special Islamic courts.
“We do not understand if all Americans agree with Obama that he can use
American money to fund a ‘yes’ campaign in Kenya,” said the Rev. Peter
Karanja, the general secretary of the National Council of Churches of
Kenya, on 30 April in Nairobi.
Karanja said that many American Christians were standing with their fellow believers in the East African country.
Anglican, Evangelical, Protestant and Roman Catholic churches have said
they will oppose the draft law, which they argue entrenches “Kadhi”
courts, as the Islamic courts are called. They also say it will
legalise abortion and reduce freedom of worship.
“In America there are lobbies fighting for increased worship space.
Those will not be pleased to see a law passed that contradicts their
values. It is imprudent for the administration to use their money to
fund what they do not agree with,” said Karanja.
The U.S. lawmakers wrote, “The Obama Administration’s advocacy in
support of Kenya’s proposed constitution may constitute a serious
violation of the Siljander Amendment and, as such, may be subject to
civil and criminal penalties under the Antideficiency Act.”
The U.S. law is said to apply to funding made through institutions such
as the USAID. It prohibits funding for lobbying for or against abortion.
“The proposed constitution includes two new articles that if adopted
would enshrine the constitutional right to abortion in Kenya and
dramatically change Kenya‚s abortion law,” the lawmakers said.
Kenyan media reports have said that the U.S. State Department has
pledged up to US$2 million to build support for the constitution.
The pro-government camp has been claiming it has enough votes to pass
the proposed constitutional changes. However, church leaders are
warning they will conduct education programs on the dangers of the law,
as part of their prophetic witness.