A proposal to entrench Muslim courts in Kenya’s constitution is discriminatory, the high court said, three months before Kenyans are due to vote on a new draft constitution.
Opposition to the courts has brought together Christian clergy and some politicians to oppose the proposed constitution, which is intended to avert a repeat of the post-election violence which shook east Africa’s largest economy in early 2008.
Also known as Kadhis’ courts, the proposed courts deal with matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance among Muslims.
“We grant a declaration that any form of religious courts should not form part of the judiciary in the constitution as it offends the doctrine of separation of state and religion,” read the ruling handed down by a three-judge bench of the high court.
The judges said elevation of the courts would raise Islam above other religions in Kenya.
Although their ruling emanated from an earlier draft constitution which was rejected in a 2005 referendum, the courts proposal is also contained in the draft constitution being put to a vote in August.
Fred Ojiambo, a Nairobi lawyer said it was too early to tell the impact of the ruling.
The search for a new constitution in the east African nation has spanned two decades, causing frustration among some people.
Senior politicians in Kenya’s grand coalition, including President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga have been campaigning for adoption of the draft constitution.
Higher Education Minister William Ruto leads, together with churches, lead the opposition to the draft which polls have shown is likely to be accepted in the referendum.
The National Council of Churches of Kenya said it would address the ruling at a news conference slated for Tuesday (today).