Kiyiapi aims to become Kenya’s first born-again Christian president

Professor James Ole Kiyiapi

Kenya could have its first professing born-again Christian president next year, say supporters of Professor James Ole Kiyiapi, 51, a candidate in the 2013 election.

Kenya goes to the polls on March 4 to choose a successor to President Mwai Kibaki, to become the fourth president in the nation’s 50 years of independence.

Former senior civil servant and technocrat Kiyiapi “strongly believes that his is a divine calling to serve the country, and has staked his all to pursue this dream” says Mugure Mugo, head of Friends of Ole Kiyiapi (Folks), in an email to Gateway News.

She says Kiyiapi’s early life was spent enjoying simple village life in Transmara, Kenya, where he herded his father’s cattle. He gave his life to Christ as a young man and played an active role in Christian affairs while studying at the University of Kenya. He earned a PhD in Forestry at the University of Toronto at the age of 32. In his civil service career in Kenya he served as Permanent Secretary in the Ministries of Forestry, Medical Services, and Education. After prayerful consideration he resigned from the civil service in April and announced his candidacy, says Mugo.

She says that Kiyiapi is most concerned about national unity and economic empowerment, and believes that if these two issues were properly addressed, Kenya would be able to move to the “much-anticipated next level of development”.

Mugo acknowledges that as a relative political unknown  Kiyiapi faces stiff competition from the current political leadership, including the current Prime Minister, Raila Odinga and two deputy Prime Ministers, Uhuru Kenyatta and Musalia Mudavadi. A quick scan of recent news reports on the Kenyan presidential race confirms that Odinga and Kenyatta are generally considered to be the top contenders. In an analysis in the Star (Nairobi), Odinga says that he and Kenyatta are the only horses in the race and the rest are “pundas” — a disparaging term akin to donkeys. However, a different perspective is provided by prolific Political blogger, Chris Kimekucha, in a post written in April after Kiyiapi declared his candidacy.

“I think Kenyans are at a crossroads. We either elect someone like Ole Kiyiapi who means well for this nation or the usual crooks who are promising to unleash hell if they are not elected. Personally I’m not saying I will automatically vote Ole Kiyiapi, but I wish more honest guys like him would come forward so we can have a wide selection. I believe it’s time for Kenyans to be very angry this year with the usual order of things and start thinking outside the box- and not what tribe so and so represents!”, wrote Kimekucha.

After the last presidential elections in Kenya in 2007, violence broke out after Kibaki was declared winner — a result disputed by Raila’s supporters. More than 1 000 people died in the violence. Kenyatta and another presidential candidate, William Ruto, have been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for their alleged roles in the violence. The ICC trial date is set for April 2013, after the forthcoming election. Global risk analysts, Maplecroft, say that localised violence is likely during the 2013 election, given the politicised nature of ethnicity in Kenya. But they say the concerted efforts of civil society and external support raise the prospect of violent outbreaks being contained much more successfully than in 2007/2008

The CIA World Factbook states that Kenya’s population of 43 million is predominantly Christian – 45 percent are Protestant, while Roman Catholics make up 33 percent, Muslims 10 percent, and 10 percent subscribe to indigenous beliefs.

Mugo says in her email: “In a continent of 54 nations, and where 50% of the population professes the Christian faith, only one country is run by a professing, Born-again Christian.

“Christianity is however growing incredibly fast here in Africa and it will be interesting to see how this might impact the continent in the years to come, particularly in leadership and other areas of society.”

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