Towards credible and peaceful elections in Kenya
“If the elections are clear, fair and transparent, then there will be peace. But even if that happens there has developed a culture in Kenya to blame loss on rigging,” says Reverend Dominique Santeto. On the 8th of August, elections will be held in Kenya and the Revernd’s role will be to preach unity in diversity.
“This is an election that is hotly contested and we have a very critical role as clergy to preach unity in diversity. We are diverse, but let’s unite. Let us agree that we can disagree. I have that role from the pulpit.”
The 8th of August 2017 is an important date in Kenya’s calendar. This will be the second election under the country’s constitution that was passed 7 years ago and totally changed the architecture of governance.
It has been described as the most competitive in Kenya’s history and it is necessary to prepare for all possible scenarios. Diakonia and its partners are therefore supporting individuals like Reverend Dominique to provide leadership in local mediation efforts.
The electioneering period in the past has been characterized by tension and violence. This is due to the strong relationship between Kenya’s politics and economics. Many Kenyans believe that their socio-economic status is strongly connected to the people in power. Given that Kenya is a highly multicultural country with about 42 tribes, voting has always gone along tribal lines. Electoral tensions and violence experienced in the past have been ethnic in nature.
Kenya had the worst experience during the 2007 General Election, where over 1100 people lost their lives and hundreds of thousands more fled their homes as a result of the post-election dispute. One of the glaring issues at that time was the lack of sober voices that could mediate between the disputing parties.
Bringing down temperatures
Over the past year, through the support of Diakonia, religious leaders have emerged as a critical voice on electoral governance issues in the country. They have taken a leading role in bringing together the various political and civil society groupings in the country in discussing matters around preparation for the elections. Diakonia’s partner organization National Council of Churches Kenya, NCCK, is equipping religious leaders as well as elders from various ethnic communities with skills that will enable them to intervene at both national and county levels in ensuring peace and harmony in the country in the period before, during and after the general election.
“Elders and religious leaders are influential at community level, says Dr. Phoebe Nyawalo who is an elder from Kisumu County.
“We hear a lot of voices from politicians, so a neutral voice of reason is quite important. It can bring down rising temperatures. Not all elders were informed about peacebuilding and how they could play a role, but here they have the opportunity to get better knowledge and be better equipped to engage on the ground,” says Dr. Phoebe Nyawalo.