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Kenya’s Faith Leaders Call for Peace amid Tension after Declaration of Presidential Result

Religious leaders in Kenya. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Religious leaders in Kenya are calling for peace and calm amid tension in the East African nation following the declaration of the final results of the Presidential election that was conducted on August 9.

On Monday, August 15, the chairman of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Wafula Chebukati, declared Deputy President, Dr. William Ruto, the winner of the tight Presidential election with 50.49% of the valid votes, against his main challenger, former Prime Minister Raila Amolo Odinga’s 48.85%.

Chaotic scenes marred the declaration of the results at the Bomas of Kenya auditorium, with Mr. Chebukati being assaulted by a section of Kenyan politicians before security agents intervened.

He was whisked away after he had taken his seat in readiness to announce the final tally of the Presidential election, and returned later to make the declaration.

Four of the seven IEBC Commissioners held a separate Press Conferencing at Nairobi’s Serena Hotel, distancing themselves from the results that were to be announced, saying, “Because of the opaque nature on how this phase has been handled, we cannot take ownership of the results that is going to be announced”.

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In a press conference after Dr. Ruto was declared President-elect, religious leaders prayed for peace in Kenya.

“We want to ask all religious leaders to raise their hands in prayer,” Archbishop Anthony Muheria said, and added, “We invite all religious leaders to raise our hands to God, and you who believe to raise our hearts, and let this country be placed in His hands because you and I will give each other the great gift of peace.”

“Dear Kenyan, keep peace. Let us keep peace,” the Local Ordinary of Kenya’s Catholic Archdiocese of Nyeri said, and continued, “Dear Kenyans, peace to you. All these leaders, we send you peace. In your woundedness we give you peace.”

He reached out to the President-elect with peace and called for peace in return, saying, “We give you peace, and also give peace to us and to your contenders.”

The Catholic Archbishop also reached out to Mr. Odinga who was vying for the Presidency for the fifth time, saying, “Our dear candidate who did not come out victorious in the Presidency we give you peace. We ask you to receive that peace in your heart and give it back to our nation.”

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On his part, the Chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), Archbishop Martin Kivuva acknowledged with appreciation peace that characterized the period before and during the casting of ballots, and the days leading to August 15, when the final tally of the Presidential elections were just about to be declared.

The Local Ordinary of Mombasa Archdiocese said, “Congratulations Kenyans. We have gotten this far without throwing a stone at each other, with just minor skirmishes here and there, but more than that, we have been able to conclude an important part of our history.”

“We know the pain someone would go through if they were expecting something different,” he further said, and prayed for calm and peace.

Speaking at the same press briefing held at Bomas of Kenya, the venue where the votes were tallied and declared, the head of the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK), Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit invited those dissatisfied with the process of the elections seek legal recourse.

“Our call to every one of us is that, we have gone through an election, highly competed, and at the end of all, a leader has emerged as declared by the IEBC. That does not mean that those who feel aggrieved do not have an avenue to challenge,” Archbishop Ole Sapit said.

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He said that Kenya’s faith leaders urge those aggrieved by the results, which IEBC announced to challenge them “through the normal process; don't challenge through the streets because that will destroy the Kenya we all want to build.”

“Our message even for those who are celebrating now, is to celebrate responsibly knowing Kenya belongs to all of us,” the ACK Primate said during the August 15 press briefing by religious leaders in Kenya.

He reached out to the President-elect, saying, “And the one who has been given the mandate to lead this nation, our prayer is that he is going to embrace everybody, those who elected him and those who did not because Kenya belongs to all of us.”

“We have an economy to grow and we can grow that economy when every Kenyan participates,” Archbishop Ole Sapit said.

“We also want to urge that the whole country be kept together so that we are able to be a nation that will continue to thrive,” he said.

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The Kenyan Anglican Archbishop reached out to religious leaders in Kenya, saying, “For the faith leaders, we all stand in solidarity with the Kenyan people.”

“Actually, we are here because of the Kenyan people: the children born and unborn, those vulnerable in every community, those who need their services and that is why as faith organizations we always complement government efforts to ensure that services are rendered to the Kenyan people in the best way,” he said.

“We urge every Kenyan to remember that you count yourself as a winner when we maintain peace because it is in peace that we can grow and thrive together. God bless Kenya,” Archbishop Ole Sapit said.

Meanwhile, speaking after being declared President-elect of Kenya, Dr. Ruto lauded Kenya’s faith leaders for playing a proactive role in the country’s electoral process and urged them to continue praying for the East African nation.  

“Let me thank the religious leaders who were part of this process right from the beginning,” Dr. Ruto said August 15 at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi, explaining that for the first time, “we saw religious leaders spend time at this tallying center, and prayed for this process.”

“I am sure their prayers will not be in vain,” he said.

Religious leaders drawn from various faith groups have been present at the Bomas of Kenya to observe the tallying process since polling day on August 9.

In their message read out at the tallying center on election day, faith-based leaders representing the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) and the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) urged the IEBC to demonstrate high levels of transparency, accuracy and accountability in the vote tallying process. 

“It will be an affront to Kenyans if the ballots they cast so faithfully are miscounted,” they said. 

In his maiden speech as President-elect on August 15, Mr. Ruto who has served as Kenya’s Deputy President since April 2013 thanked his “worthy competitor”, Mr. Odinga, “for a campaign that we all dwelt on issues and we all tried to sell an agenda to the people of Kenya."

He promised to work with all leaders in Kenya "so that we can fashion a country that leaves nobody behind."

"What the people of Kenya have done is to assign us responsibilities. There will be those of us who will be in the executive but there will be some of us who will oversee what we do in the executive. Both responsibilities in government, and the opposition are important for the people of Kenya," Dr. Ruto said. 

He assured Kenyans that there will be "no room for vengeance" on those who wronged him. 

The President-elect said, “I know many are wondering, especially those who have done many things against us; they have nothing to fear. There is no room for vengeance, for looking back, we are looking into the future."

"I am acutely aware that our country is at a stage where we need all hands on deck to move it forward. We do not have the luxury to look back, to point fingers. We must close ranks and work together for a functioning, democratic, prosperous Kenya,” Dr. Ruto said.