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INTERVIEW - Kenyan prime minister blasts judges over ruling
LONDON (Reuters) - Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has attacked the country's judiciary as an obstacle to reform after a court ruled it would be discriminatory to entrench Muslim courts in Kenya's constitution.
"I think it is a most unfortunate ruling and mischievous at that," Odinga said in an interview with Reuters late on Friday, referring to a ruling by Kenya's high court on Monday on Muslim or Kadhis' courts.
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.
"This basically has confirmed what we've said ... that our courts are not independent. Our courts themselves are impediments to reform," Odinga said.
"The intentions of this judgment are clear. It is not the Kadhis' courts that they are aiming at. They (the judges) just want to shoot down the entire constitution because it provides for their resignation and vetting at the end of it, and that is what they don't want," he said.
Odinga said he did not believe the court's ruling would harm the campaign in favour of the proposed new constitution, which is backed by senior politicians in Kenya's grand coalition, including Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki.
"I think it is actually going to harden the resolve of the people to get a new constitution. I see a boomerang effect," Odinga said.
WILL ACCEPT RESULT
Odinga said he would accept the result of the referendum, no matter what is was. "We are ready for any outcome. We are campaigning for a 'yes', but if we lose democratically, then of course we have no choice. We'll accept the outcome," he said.
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.
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.
Odinga was speaking after launching an initiative to boost engineering in Africa at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London.
Earlier on Friday, he met Britain's new Prime Minister David Cameron, who leads a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition that took power after this month's election.
Odinga said he believed the Kenyan government could build a very strong relationship with the new government of Britain, Kenya's biggest trading partner.
He said British officials had asked about reforms in Kenya, had expressed support for the referendum process and had promised "material support" for it.
Odinga said Kenya did not expect "massive aid" from Western countries such as Britain that have been hit by the economic and financial crisis.
"What we discussed with the prime minister (Cameron) today (put) more emphasis on trade and investment from both sides," he said.
(Editing by Alison Williams)
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