|The Catholic Church has asked Kenyans to reject the majimbo system of government proposed by ODM and ODM Kenya.
The position taken by the church immediately put it on a collision course with the Orange parties which have said they will implement the system if they win the December polls.
On Thursday, ODM-K presidential candidate Kalonzo Musyoka and ODM presidential running mate Musalia Mudavadi described the church’s position as strange.
According to Mr Mudavadi, the Catholics’ stand was different from the position the church adopted during the 2005 referendum on the proposed Constitution. The church did not take a stand during the referendum.
Mr Mudavadi asked: “Why is the Catholic church now taking sides on matters of this nature? ODM believes that a federal system would not divide the people, so it is not true for the church to come out in public and deny that they are supporting any party or candidate.”
On Thursday, after reading a pastoral letter signed by 25 Catholic bishops, Cardinal-designate John Njue said majimboism (federalism) would be disastrous for Kenya.
He said the church would continue to support a unitary system, which has been in place since independence 44 years ago.
Addressing a press conference at the Resurrection Garden in Nairobi’s Karen area, the archbishop said: “Just because we don’t support majimboism does not mean we support any political party.”
Archbishop Njue, also the chairman of the Kenya Episcopal Conference, spoke soon after reading a four-page pastoral letter in which the church with 10 million members said it had taken a stand against majimbo as a matter of principle.
“We believe it will be disastrous if we go that way (majimbo)…we are going by the principles we uphold,” the Cardinal-designate said.
But Mr Musyoka faulted the Cardinal-designate and the bishops for the decision to openly oppose majimbo.
He argued that his party was advocating for “economic federalism” which meant devolution of resources and services to the grassroots.
“While I have a lot of respect for the Cardinal and bishops, I am inviting them to read chapter 14 of the Bomas Draft which I suspect some of them voted for,” he said.
“I don’t remember them (Catholic bishops) coming out to oppose majimbo. They never said what they are saying today in 2005. May be if people do not like the name majimbo, we can call it devolution,” he said.
According to Mr Musyoka, the concept of majimbo was similar to devolution and Kenyans had shown that they want services closer to them.
Mr Mudavadi of ODM described the bishops’ statement as “hypocritical” and wondered why it was coming on the eve of the General Election.
He said the statement was suspect and could be interpreted to mean that the bishops supported President Kibaki.
The President has in the past said that those championing majimbo were “dreaming” and Kenya would remain a unitary state.
On Thursday, Mr Mudavadi said: “The (bishops’) statement is hypocritical and extremely strange coming hot on the heels of strong opposition of majimbo by the President and all leaders supporting his re-election.”
Two weeks ago, retired president Daniel arap Moi also opposed the clamour for majimbo.
He said: “Time for honeymoon for ODM is over and the party should face the reality and stop telling Kenyans that the country will adopt majimbo system.”
On the same day, President Kibaki who was in Kisii said: “It will never happen — those who are saying so are dreaming.” He went on to say that Kenya will be for Kenyans.
Others who have asked Kenyans to reject the new system are Kanu national chairman Uhuru Kenyatta, Ford People leader Simeon Nyachae, Narc Kenya chairman Raphael Tuju, and his Ford Kenya counterpart, Mr Musikari Kombo.
The leaders said majimbo would balkanise the country, promote ethnicity and ignite land clashes.
During Thursdays news conference, Archbishop Njue said Kenyans needed more time to embrace the proposed system which was introduced briefly after independence before it was withdrawn after some regions failed to sustain themselves economically.
The archbishop said the fear of balkanisation was not far-fetched and Kenyans must strive to remain united and maintain their identities.