KENYANS have been urged to remain peaceful, regardless of any provocation or incitement to violence in the run-up to next month’s elections.
The Anglican Church of Kenya urged religious leaders to stay impartial, and told Kenyans not to lay down their lives “on account of elections that come and go”.
In a pastoral letter last week, the chairman of the National Council of Churches of Kenya — which includes the Anglican Church in Kenya — Archbishop Timothy Ndambuki, and the general secretary, Canon Chris Kinyanjui, urged: “Do not allow the desires of the candidates to ascend to positions of power destroy your life or the lives of your family and neighbours. Your life is very important to God, and should not be destroyed on account of elections that come and go.
“Remember that you will continue to live in your neighbourhood after the elections, so do not destroy your home ground. Remain peaceful regardless of the incitement or excitement that comes with elections, and on August 9, cast your vote and then go home.”
Church leaders should also preach messages of peace and unity before election day, they said. “We as the clergy must be ready to minister to those who will be mourning their loss and those who will be celebrating their victory. Taking sides at this time will compromise our ability to minister in the coming days. So let us not support or oppose any candidate for the sake of the ministry.”
In a message to candidates standing in the election, they said: “Do not let your ambitions destroy this country.”
Another message urging peace was issued jointly by the National Council of Churches of Kenya and the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops on Monday. They called for transparency and dialogue between all parties.
Kenya has a history of election violence. Disputed elections in 2007 led to horrific ethnic-based violence which is estimated to have killed up to 1200 people, with many more injured, including many who suffered sexual violence. Dozens more were killed after the 2017 election, the results of which were contested in the courts.
This election is taking place amid a devastating drought, and a cost-of-living crisis, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.
The August elections include the election of a new president, as well as election of MPs. The four-time failed presidential candidate Raila Odinga is standing again. His leading rival is the current Deputy President, William Ruto.
The UN has warned that the election has the potential to ignite violence once again. Human-rights experts from the UN have called on all candidates to make a commitment to peaceful conduct before and after the election.
“Candidates and political parties must refrain from using inflammatory language which may lead to violence and human-rights abuses, particularly against women, persons with disabilities, LGBTIQ+ individuals, or ethnic groups,” they said.
Kenya’s election law requires that a presidential candidate win more than 50 per cent of the vote for an outright win. This presidential election will be Kenya’s third under the constitution established in 2010.