Five killed in stampede at Kenya anti-constitution rally

[JURIST] An anti-constitution rally in Nairobi's Uhuru Park turned deadly on Sunday after two explosions caused a stampede [video] leaving five dead and more than 70 injured. The rally was organized by Christian groups [Africa Review report] opposed to Kenya's draft constitution [text, PDF] because it retains recognition of existing Islamic courts and includes a clause on abortion. Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga [BBC backgrounder] confirmed after a security meeting on Monday that the explosions, which occurred 15 minutes apart, were caused by small grenades. President Mwai Kibaki [official website] condemned that actions of those responsible for Sunday's turmoil and announced that the government has launched a detailed investigation [transcript] into the explosions:

I wish to condemn in the strongest terms possible those behind the disruption of a meeting yesterday at Uhuru Park, which led to deaths and injuries of innocent Kenyans. This is a crime against the people of Kenya. It is an act of intolerance that has no place in the New Kenya that we seek to build. The government will get to the bottom of the heinous crime. The nation's security and other government agencies have launched urgent and detailed investigations to uncover those behind the crime. ... In the meantime, I urge Kenyans to remain calm and tolerant. We must shame any retrogressive forces who do not respect democracy and the rights of Kenyans to hold different views.
The National Council of Churches of Kenya and 14 other churches have claimed that the government is responsible for the explosions on Sunday. The Kenya government, except for a few Christian ministers, are in favor of the new constitution. The National Council of Churches of Kenya and 14 other churches claim that the explosions on Sunday were a political attack by the government [BBC report] on those who oppose the constitution. Odinga rejected this claim and held that all speculation should cease until the investigation is completed. The draft constitution will be put to a public referendum on August 4.

In April, Kenyan Attorney General Amos Wako [official profile] published [JURIST report] the country's draft constitution, which proposes more balance of power in the government. Kibaki, Odinga and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka have all supported the proposed constitution and have urged citizens to approve it in the public referendum. Despite the government leaders' widespread calls for cooperation and support, the proposed constitution still faces criticism, particularly from Kenyan religious figures who oppose the draft's position on abortion, marriage and divorce. The president's Cabinet members have encouraged the religious leaders to support the draft constitution and then pursue their goals through the political process after the constitution is ratified. Last month, a Kenyan constitutional court ruled that inclusion of Islamic "Kadhi" courts in the nation's current constitution is illegal and discriminatory [JURIST report]. The Kadhi court system, which elevates Islam over the country's other religions, was deemed unconstitutional because it does not coincide with Kenya's secular mandate. The court also held that supporting Kadhi courts with public funds is a form of segregation as it promotes the development of one religion over another. The three-judge panel did not determine whether the Islamic courts should be included in the nation's new constitution.

 

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.