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Uphold Peace Before, During and After the Polls

Uphold Peace Before, During and After the Polls:

Message from the Religious Leaders’ National Elections Conference

Preamble

More than 250 religious leaders drawn from across the country have gathered here at Ufungamano House, Nairobi, to make a final assessment of the readiness of the nation for the 2022 General Elections, which are only 10 days away. The Conference was convened by the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) and National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) in partnership with Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU), Elections Monitoring Group (ELOG), and Kenya National Commission for Human Rights (KNCHR). Delegates were inspired by the scripture recorded in Matthew 5: 9

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

1. Assessment of Readiness

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 in Article 38(2) gives every citizen the right to free, fair and regular elections based on universal suffrage and the free expression of the will of the electors. This necessitates that all responsible agencies, departments and stakeholders work with synergy to safeguard this fundamental right.

Appreciating that the different actors have had five years to prepare for the 2022 General Elections, we have taken time to assess the progress of six key actors and sectors. We have identified gaps or deficiencies that could hinder the holding of peaceful, free, fair and credible elections, and prayerfully make recommendations on essential remedial measures.

2. Elections Management

In our assessment, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is as ready as can be expected at this point in time. The Commission is fully instituted with 7 Commissioners and a Chief Executive Officer, and has so far faithfully adhered with the timelines spelt out in the January 2022 Gazette.

In the remaining days before the polls, we urge the IEBC to:

  • Hold daily media briefings
  • Engage all stakeholders and proactively disclose all the election activities and decisions touching on the elections

On their part, we plead with all media outlets to provide live coverage of the IEBC briefings as part of our collective civic duty so that all Kenyans are informed and are therefore not easily swayed by propaganda.

3. Political Actors: Parties and Independent Candidates

In our assessment, political actors have carried out their campaigns with a high level of restraint and acceptable decorum. Kenyans have not witnessed incitement to violence by politicians as has happened in the past. However, intra-party and intra-coalition disputes have resulted in some incidences of violence.

To promote effective and peaceful participation of all candidates in the elections, we encourage the political parties and independent candidates to put in place measures for payment of agents since they provide essential oversight of the polling day processes.

Further, we recommend that coalitions and parties activate their internal dispute resolution mechanisms so that disagreements don’t escalate into violence.

On their part, we call upon the security agencies to enhance security provided to independent candidates who are often threatened and intimidated by political party candidates.

In the remaining days to the polls, we call upon all political actors and commentators to ensure that their speeches and those of their agents and supporters promote peace and cohesion, and do not incite people or engage in spoiling characters.

4. Security Sector

In our assessment, the National Police Service has taken appreciable measures to prepare for maintenance of law and order during the elections. We noted that trainings on the “Election Security Management Manual for Police Commanders” have so far reached 50% of the targeted officers. Additionally, the manifested continuous engagement with the IEBC is promising synergy and collaboration.

To further enhance this, we recommend that the trainings on Election Security Management be accelerated, and be expanded to include all the cadres of police officers.

We also urge for speedy investigations of cases of human rights violations, including Gender Based Violence, and forwarding of evidence to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. In addition, we encourage Police Commanders at Police Post and Police Station levels to cultivate good relations with the people to promote community policing.

5. Watchdog Institutions

In our assessment, watchdog institutions that include constitutional commissions and those established through legislature are at mixed levels of preparedness. The main concerns touch on mandate conflicts between them, gross underfunding, and perceived partisanship.

We recommend that the Commissions and Agencies adopt an inter-agency approach to resolve outstanding jurisdictional issues. We also urge them to keep off activities and events that can be perceived to be partisan so that they execute their mandates effectively.

On their part, we call upon the media to allocate equitable and objective coverage to all coalitions and candidates.

6. Citizens

In our assessment, citizens across the country have acted responsibly during the electoral process. Despite the widespread bribery with money and other goodies, Kenyans have not engaged in electoral violence to the scales witnessed in the past. Further, we have noted that there is widespread misuse of social media by persons who spread hate and discord, low level of civic education, and a relatively high level of apathy.

We strongly recommend that the IEBC undertakes an intensive voter education campaign to ensure all who participate in the polls will know what to do and thereby cut down on number of spoilt ballots.

On their part, we urge all Kenyans to continue upholding peace and resisting incitement to violence. As a citizen, go and vote and then go home. Regardless of the results announced, do not engage in violence and instead encourage all who are dissatisfied to file petitions in court.

7. Religious Leaders

In our assessment, we have found that religious leaders across the country have consistently preached a message of peace before,` during and after the elections.

We also appreciate that the KCCB and NCCK have mobilized more than 2,100 volunteer observers in all the counties to monitor the polling day processes and outcomes.

We encourage our brother and sister clergy to continue using their platforms to preach peace and national cohesion before, during and after the elections. Let us also collaborate with the IEBC and other actors to provide voter information so that the citizens know why and how to participate in the polls.

Further to this, let us put in place structures to provide spiritual and psychosocial support to all candidates, especially the more than 14,000 who will not win the elective positions.

Conclusion

Elections are a core component of a democratic state such as Kenya, and we appreciate the fact that the 2022 General Elections are more issue based than all other polls we have had in the past. Let us all join hands to progress this trend by ensuring that every actor plays their role effectively and efficiently, and that we all uphold peace and national cohesion before, during and after the elections.

Over the remaining days, we ask every Kenyan to sing the National Anthem every day as a prayer for our nation:

Let all with one accord, In common bond united, Build this our nation together

And the glory of Kenya, The fruit of our labour, Fill every heart with thanksgiving

Signed on this 29th day of July 2022 at Ufungamano House, Nairobi

Rt Rev Alfred Rotich

Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops

Rev Canon Chris Kinyanjui

National Council of Churches of Kenya

December 2022
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