Please pray for peaceful elections to take place in Kenya today as four candidates run for the country’s leadership. Kenya sits just outside the World Watch List Top 50 (at number 51) and Christians there are still vulnerable to persecution.
In Christian-majority Kenya, the Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab is a constant threat, and organised crime is also a serious problem
Today (9 Aug) Kenya is holding their presidential election alongside other important elections. They signal the end of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidency, who has served his allotted two terms. Apart from choosing a president, voters will also be choosing governors, senators, members of parliament and county assembly members.
Four candidates are vying for the presidency while many hold their breath for a nation that has struggled to live down its reputation for post-electoral controversy and violence.
The four candidates running for office are Raila Odinga, a former Prime Minister, William Ruto, the current deputy president, George Wajackoyah and David Waihinga.
Odinga and Ruto are the two strongest candidates; Odinga (now running for the fifth time) is also the current incumbent’s preferred candidate. A former political prisoner, Odinga says the last three elections were stolen from him. “He has pledged to stamp out widespread graft and give a monthly stipend to the unemployed, universal healthcare and free education to all. He named his eldest son Fidel in a nod to his left-wing sympathies,” explains Reuters.
But Odinga’s near-victory in 2007 led to widespread violence, in which 1,100 people were killed after the poll result was hotly disputed.
Ruto’s is leader of the United Democratic Alliance, the largest party under the Kenya Kwanza (Kenya First) coalition. His messaging has resonated with the poor. In the 2007 election, Ruto sided with Odinga and lost. He was later charged with crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court for his alleged role in the post-election violence, but the case collapsed. He denied any wrongdoing. In 2013 and 2017, he teamed up with Kenyatta to defeat Odinga.
While the two other candidates, Wajackoyah and Waihinga, are unlikely to win, they may prevent Odinga and Ruto from gaining a majority win.
The elections are taking place against a backdrop of scepticism among voters that the electoral commission can deliver a credible result. In 2017, after some 10,000 polling stations failed to transmit the votes, the Supreme Court overturned the vote and ordered a new election.
To avoid a rerun of those expensive failures, this time around only people who can be verified by the electronic system will vote and a photo of the results will be sent digitally from more than 50,000 polling stations instead of a text message, which was the method previously used. Nanjira Sambuli, a technology and governance analyst, told the BBC that the investment in technology has earned Kenya the dubious honour of holding the most expensive elections in Africa.
By law, the electoral commission has seven days after the vote to declare the winners.
There are also concerns about the role of social media in the elections and the potential for “influencers” to incite violence.
The Sentinel Project (a non-profit organisation that seeks to prevent mass atrocities) explains, “There is an established precedent for rumours and misinformation (including disinformation that malicious actors deliberately spread) exacerbating political and intercommunal tensions in various countries. Kenya is a perfect example of such a country due to the high degree of digital connectivity among its population, especially youth who live in the regions most affected by ethnopolitical tensions. When combined with relatively low levels of digital literacy and limited access to reliable information sources, this situation is primed for misinformation and manipulation to incite violence during the election.”
In the run-up to the elections, Open Doors has supported the work of the Africa Evangelical Alliance in a peace initiative dubbed the Msafara wa upendo (Caravan of Love).
“Preaching peace is a crucial part of the integral mission of demonstrating the power of the gospel in action,” shares a local Open Doors partner. “Msafara wa Upendo sought to foster peace as a deterrent to violence before the oncoming elections in Garissa, Lamu, Isiolo, and Nairobi counties, which have been hotbeds of religious, ethnic, and politically instigated conflicts in past elections. Through the initiative, peace campaign ambassadors were identified and equipped to carry out interfaith dialogue during which faith and clan leaders commit to preach peace and to observe developments leading up to the elections.”
Kenya sits just outside the Top 50 countries on the World Watch List this year, at number 51. Although Christianity is the majority religion, Christians from a Muslim background in the northeast and coastal regions live in fear of attack – even from their closest relatives. The Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab is a constant threat, and organised crime is also a serious problem.
That Kenya’s elections will take place peacefully
That the outcome of the elections will benefit the poorest and most marginalised citizens
For the Kenyan church to promote peace and unity throughout the nation.
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