Religious leaders in Kenya call for peace amid tensions following the announcement of a new president-elect, inviting dissatisfied parties to seek legal recourse through the “normal process.”
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Kenya’s religious leaders are calling for peace and calm amid tensions in the wake of the announcement of the results of the recently-concluded presidential elections, which took place on 9 August.
On Monday, 15 August, after days of collating the votes, the chairman of the country’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Wafula Chebukati, declared Deputy President, William Ruto, as the fifth president of Kenya in a tight presidential race against his main challenger, Raila Odinga.
Ruto won with a narrow margin of victory, having a little over seven million votes, while Odinga secured a little less than seven million. Ruto received 50.49% of the vote, while Odinga received 48.85%, according to the IEBC.
Chaos ensued just before the declaration of the results, amid scuffles and allegations of vote-rigging by Mr. Odinga’s camp.
Four of the seven members of the electoral commission distanced themselves from the results that were to be announced, saying that the way the votes were handled was “opaque.”
Many observers suspect that the election results could foreshadow a court challenge.
Religious leaders appeal for peace
In a press conference after Ruto was declared president-elect, religious leaders prayed for peace in Kenya.
Archbishop Anthony Muheria of Nyeri invited all religious leaders and all believers to pray and to place the country in the hands of God, encouraging them to “give each other the great gift of peace.”
“Dear Kenyan, keep peace,” he said. “Peace to you. All these leaders, we send you peace. In your woundedness, we give you peace.”
The Archbishop also addressed the two major candidates for the country’s number one position, invoking peace on the president-elect and urging him to “give peace to us and to your contenders.” Archbishop Muheria also offered peace to Mr. Odinga, asking him to “receive that peace in [his] heart and give it back to the nation.”
Likewise, the Chairman of the Kenyan Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Martin Kivuva, welcomed the peace that marked the period before and during the casting of ballots, as well as the days leading to the announcement of the final results.
He, however, acknowledged “the pain someone would go through if they were expecting something different,” in light of the results and prayed for calm and peace.
Seek legal recourse peacefully
In a similar vein, the head of the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK), Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit, invited those dissatisfied with the process of the elections to seek legal recourse “through the normal process” not “through the streets because that will destroy the Kenya we all want to build.”
He also addressed the president-elect, urging him to “embrace everybody – those who elected him and those who did not, because Kenya belongs to all of us.”
“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,” Archbishop Ole Sapit said.
The Anglican Archbishop further addressed Kenyans saying: “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.”
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