Presidential war of words worries Kenyans in advance of referendum


NAIROBI - The war of words between Kenya’s immediate former President Daniel Moi and the sitting President Mwai Kibaki is polarizing Kenya ahead of the constitutional referendum vote on 4 August 2010. A group of evangelical pastors from western Kenya, concerned about growing tensions and possible violence in parts of the Rift Valley and Northern Kenya, have asked the two leaders to stop their verbal battling. They claim their actions are a recipe for clashes.

Speaking to journalists in Kakamega in western Kenya, Bishop Nicholas Olumasai of the Kakamega Fellowship Church who is chairing the anti-new constitution team in the region said the two leaders' actions are likely to aggravate the already volatile situation in the country.

Moi and Kibacki have had a past love-hate political relationship, and lately they have openly exchanged bitter words with Mr. Moi accusing President Kibaki of forcing a bad constitution on Kenyans. President Kibaki shot back at Mr. Moi for violating Kenya's custom of former presidents staying out of active politics, since Moi has been campaigning against the proposed new constitution.

President Kibaki has been actively defending the new constitution in different parts of the country, and Kibaki has accused Moi, who ruled Kenya for 24 years, of failing to deliver a new constitution to Kenyans.

Bishop Olumasai accused some politicians - especially those supporting the proposed constitution - of trying to create divisions among religious leaders in Western Province by preaching anti-peace messages.

The Bishop said these politicians were dishing out money to some clergymen opposed to the proposed constitution to divide the anti-new document team.

“What is happening is unacceptable,” Bishop Olumasai said.

As the clock ticks towards the referendum day, the latest divisions between the two top Kenya politicians could push Kenya closer to chaos.

The Chairman of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) Mzalendo Kibunja has asked the retired President Moi to respect the presidency and to tone down his criticisms. But other local politicians and some religious leaders have argued that Mr. Moi as a statesman has all the rights to comment on the proposed document debate.

The two groups, the anti-new-constitution “No team” and those supporting it, the “Yes team”, have deeply divided the country along sectarian, ethnic and political lines leaving Kenyans on the threshold of violent conflict.

Africa, PoliticsChris Khisa