Kenya elections: Christian leaders stepped up as peacekeepers amid violence

Christians and other religious leaders in Kenya stepped up to help maintain the peace during the recent presidential election. However, protests are now taking place in certain parts of the country, as some question the election's results.

(REUTERS / Baz Ratner)Kenyans pray during a rally calling for peace ahead of Kenya's August 8 election in Nairobi, Kenya July 30, 2017.

On Aug. 8, incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta won Kenya's presidential elections with 54 percent of the vote against several others, including opposition leader Raila Odinga, a four-time candidate. The latter had accused his opponent of electoral fraud in the previous polls, Church Times noted.

Kenya's stability is important to the African continent because the country is one of the top economies and is the main trading hub in the eastern region. Should unrest or violence erupt in the area, neighboring economies would be affected, TRT reported.

On Aug. 7, Christian Aid senior humanitarian adviser in Nairobi, Mbaraka Fazal, explained how high the stakes were for this year's presidential election. 

"In this election, the stakes are very high," said Fazal on Monday. "If the opposition don't win this time, they may well become irrelevant; so they are especially keen to mobilise the electorate. At the same time, the current sitting government are [sic] not ready to give up their political position."

At the time, Fazal also said the Church and the government worked hand in hand to prevent the resurgence of religious violence in this year's presidential election. She added that successful electronic transmission of the electoral results would help keep the polls transparent, and she thinks the system is free and fair. Religious leaders also play a "unique role" since they have the ability to mediate between the different factions.

In 2013, the votes were manually counted because the electronic transmission of results failed. Just last month, Chris Msando, who was in charge of the voting system, was found dead.

Ethnic violence during the 2007 elections led to the deaths of more than 1,000 people and the displacement of 600,000. There were those who sought sanctuary at a church, but more than 30 women and children ended up being burned to death in it. At the time, Revd Benjamin Nzimbi, then Archbishop of Kenya, reportedly called for a recount of the electoral results. The International Criminal Court later charged Kenyatta of instigating violence, but the case did not push through because of lack of evidence.

However, despite the religious leaders efforts to make things peaceful, it looks like this year's elections have also caused violence to erupt, as Odinga, the opposition leader, and his allies claimed the poll was "fraudulent."

In a report from The Guardian, at least 24 people are dead after protests against the election's results took a deadly turn. Teenagers threw rocks while authorities used tear gas. There were burnt tires, barricades, and broken glass on a number of roads. There have also been instances of looting, and nine men have been shot in "anti-looting operations." However, a little girl, Stephanie, was also hit by a stray bullet. 

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