Originally published in The New Times
Kenyans have intensified prayers for their country as the tightly contested August 8 general election draws closer.
Citizens across the East African nation are seeking divine intervention in the election as they pray on the streets, in churches, in public rallies and in their houses.
On Monday, hundreds of Christians who turned up for morning devotion in churches spread in the country before heading to their places of work had one mission – to pray for peace.
“We pray for peace as we go to vote in new leaders. Help us choose our leaders wisely but give us peace during and after polls,” prayed a pastor at Jesus is Alive Ministries in Nairobi on Monday.
Similar prayers were heard in various churches in the capital’s central business district early on Monday morning.
And on Sunday, prayers for peaceful elections were even louder during church services with political leaders joining in.
“We have no choice but to pray for peace, if this country burns, we have nowhere else to go to. Kenya is our home, it is our country. We will do everything to protect it. We will fast as we pray,” said Damaris Kioko, a Nairobi resident.
Kioko noted that prayers have worked before when the country faced distress or a defining moment and would still work in next month’s polls.
“The government has assured us that security would be beefed up and there would be no violence, which is a good thing, but as religious people, these assurances are not enough. It is the reason we are praying that all goes well. People vote peacefully, the winner is known and we resume normal life,” she said.
The August elections pit the incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta against his main challenger Raila Odinga. The contest is a repeat of the 2013 elections, only that this time round, Kenyatta is seeking re-election against a re-energised opposition coalition.
Opinion polls have predicted that the presidential polls are too close to call, with neither Odinga nor Kenyatta having a clear lead.
Odinga has accused the government numerous times of harbouring plans to rig the polls in favour of Kenyatta, claims that the incumbent has dismissed.
Both the Opposition leader and President Kenyatta have vowed to concede defeat only if elections are free and fair, political stands that are putting Kenyans on the edge amid incidences of violence at various places.
Why Kenyans seek intervention
In 2007 elections, which led to violence in which one thousand people were killed, similar political rhetoric was recorded, the reason why Kenyans are seeking divine intervention.
President Kenyatta is among politicians who has called on Kenyans to pray for the country and peace as elections loom.
“We are asking for God’s favour to keep us united as a nation with the clear recognition that this country was here before August 8 and will be here after the election,” Uhuru said on Sunday during a prayer meeting in Nairobi.
He noted that tens of politicians were busy campaigning in the country seeking for votes but they are not asking the people to turn to the Almighty for guidance.
“I ask you to pray for our country so that we may remain united as a people. Pray that we may have wisdom as leaders so that we recognize that the 45 million Kenyans are greater than any one individual,” he said.
The prayers for peaceful polls are, however, not only being held in Kenya, Kenyans in the diaspora including in Germany and US are among those praying for the country.
Those in Germany will hold several prayers in different cities on August 5, a notice on a diaspora website informed Kenyans living in the country.
“Kenyans United in Germany presents Amani Kenya open air prayers for peace and unity. Dress code Kenyan flag colours,” the notice said.
Opposition critics have, however, dismissed the rallying of Kenyans to pray noting that there would be peace automatically if elections are free and fair.
- Meanwhile Fides News reports that hundreds of human rights activists took to the streets of Nairobi to protest murder of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) ICT Manager, Chris Msando.
The body of Msando, the IEBC systems development manager, was found with signs of torture in a forest in Kikuyu on the outskirts of the city on July 30, a few days before the general election of August 8.
“Msando’s murder is a source of very, very significant concern and we want to tell the IEBC (election commission) that there are a lot of people out there who are concerned about the killing”, said George Kegoro, director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission. “Kenya has an unfortunate history of assassinations for political expediency and there is a chilling familiarity in the sequence of events… that makes it difficult to dismiss the sinking feeling that we have been here before”, he added.
Msando had made several television appearances in the days before his death to assure Kenyans of the reliability of the electronic voting system which crashed during the 2013 elections leading to accusations of poll fraud.
The electoral body’s Chairman Wafula Chebukati called on government to provide security to IEBC staff, but sought to play down fears Msando’s killers had obtained any sensitive information and added: ” Whoever tortured him I don’t think he got anything. All our passwords are intact.
“We have service providers and, as it is, none of the commission employees have these passwords so let us not speculate”, he concluded.