Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has attacked the country’s judiciary as an obstacle to reform after its high court ruled it would be discriminatory to entrench kadhi courts — Islamic courts that rule on the basis of sharia — in Kenya’s constitution. The ruling came three months before Kenyans vote in a referendum on a proposed new constitution, seen as an important step towards ensuring that post-election violence which shook east Africa’s largest economy in 2008 is not repeated.
Opposition to the Muslim courts brought together Christian clergy and some politicians to oppose the proposed constitution. The kadhis’ courts deal with matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance among Muslims.
A three-judge panel of the high court said religious courts should not be enshrined in the constitution because it ran counter to the principle of separation of state and religion.
Kenya’s population is about 45% Protestant, 33% Roman Catholic and 10% Muslim, the rest following indigenous faiths or other beliefs. The referendum has heightened differences between Kenya’s Muslims and its Christian churches, which have criticised the draft constitution for including the Islamic courts and allowing abortion in certain circumstances.