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NCCK General Secretary Rev. Canon Peter Karanja is flanked by the Clergy and National Elders during a press conference on credible and peaceful 2017 elections following a 3-day consultative forum at Jumuia Conference and Country Home, Limuru
Securing Elections 2017
National Clergy and Elders’ Consultative Forum
More than 300 Clergy and Elders drawn from all the regions of Kenya have gathered here at Jumuia Conference and Country Home, Limuru, from 28th February – 2nd March 2017 to reflect on the imperative for peace before, during and after the coming General Elections.
The meeting reflected on and was challenged by the scripture recorded in Ezekiel 33: 7 which reads:
Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.
We recognized that as clergy and elders, we have a responsibility to make a contribution to the welfare of the nation by pre-empting the factors that threaten peace during the electoral period and develop viable mitigation measures.
1. Readiness for Elections: Elections materials, equipment and processes
Elections in Kenya are a critical event as they are the process through which two arms of the government are established, these being the Executive and the Legislature. For this reason, instances in the past where the elections were not conducted well resulted in conflict and violence. We therefore took time to consult with both the Chairperson and the Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission on the IEBC’s preparedness for Elections 2017.
In the interaction with the IEBC team, the meeting was assured that procurement of electoral materials and equipment will be undertaken despite the hindrances caused by incessant court cases. It was also noted that there are no clear guidelines for the implementation of the “Not more than Two Thirds” gender rule, which opens the door for questioning the constitutionality of elections 2017. The Commission officials emphasized that the team is prepared to handle all the electoral processes, and one of the control measures will be publishing of the names of returning officers, presiding officers and clerks as guided by the law.
2. Readiness for Elections: Security
A major requirement for elections is security. The meeting therefore took time to consult with the Inspector General of the National Police Service to underscore the need for comprehensive security for all before, during and after the elections. The Inspector General assured the meeting that they had mapped out all the electoral areas and are reviewing the landscape continually and plans are in place on how to deal with potential threats in each locality as they arise. A key aspect of the security plan is quick apprehension and prosecution of individuals suspected of committing electoral offenses especially hate speech and incitement to violence.
3. Possible Threats to Peace
Having taken these assurances by the Police Service and the IEBC into consideration, this meeting assessed various possible scenarios and identified the following possible threats to peace before, during and after the elections:
a) Hate speech and Incitement to Violence, which are increasing due to delayed justice in view of lack of punishment of past offenders. It is also notable that hate speech is being spewed uncontrollably through social media and call-in programmes in FM stations
b) Increase and presence of gangs and militias by politicians and aspirants for the purpose of intimidating and visiting violence on opponents and the general public in the counties and which could be involved in the national contests. This meeting has noted that groups that were hitherto dormant are being revived by known politicians and it is of utmost importance that security agencies move with speed to crack on them within the law
c) Irregularities during the high stakes political party nominations will lead to fallouts that have a potential of sparking violent conflicts between supporters of different candidates and / or voter apathy
d) Mass transfer of voters with the threat that violence will be meted out on voters who are not quickly identified by other voters at polling stations on suspicion that they registered there for the purpose of tilting the election results in favour of certain candidates
e) Perpetuation of the narrative that there will be violence during and after the elections, which promises to be a self-fulfilling prophecy as some communities are already prepared to displace others or move out of their homes during the voting period
4. Mitigation Measures
Recognizing the threat to peace posed by these possible triggers, this meeting took to heart the word of God recorded in Ezekiel 33: 6
But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.
We have therefore committed ourselves to undertake the following actions and initiatives so as to pre-empt and mitigate the threats to peace before, during and after elections:
a) Organize Inter Denominational Prayer Forums
The Clergy and Elders will organize and facilitate inter denominational and inter faith prayer forums to intercede for the nation in view of the coming elections in the various counties.
b) Create and hold Peace Forums between Communities
The Clergy and Elders will actively use the platforms available to them to initiate and support dialogue between ethnic communities for the purpose of ensuring there is peaceful coexistence before, during and after the elections. This is of extreme importance in view of the ethnic identity that political parties in Kenya have assumed, which results in support for particular candidates being associated with particular tribes. We will through these forums endeavor to promote cross-ethnic cohesion by affirming the democratic rights of all Kenyans and condemn stereotyping of any communities.
c) Undertake Advocacy with Political Leaders and Aspirants
The Clergy and Elders will reach out to political leaders and aspirants at local and national levels to emphasize to them the imperative for peace, and to declare that we will actively expose and point out to Kenyans the aspirants who engage in hate speech and incitement to violence.
d) Facilitate Negotiated Democracy
The Clergy and Elders will wherever possible facilitate and participate in consultations aimed at negotiating around leadership positions so as to ensure every community within the area is included in decision making.
e) Use available forums to preach peace and criminalize violence
The Clergy and Elders will use the forums available to them to preach peace among the community members. Where cases of hate speech and incitement of communities occur, the clergy and elders will report to the police and appeal to the Inspector General if action is not taken against the perpetrators. In addition, the Clergy and Elders will encourage all community members to allow politicians of all parties and persuasions to campaign peacefully and freely in every corner of the country to woo voters.
Beyond the pulpits and public barazas, the Clergy and Elders will use the opportunities they have to reach the community which include weddings, funerals, church organs, mainstream media, social media, and young artists in the community.
f) Working with Security Agencies
The Clergy and Elders will actively participate in peace networks available to them as well as Nyumba Kumi forums and through then obtain contacts of local administration and security officials so as to ensure quick response when peace and security are threatened.
g) Engage the Youth
The Clergy and Elders will reach out to the youth to implore on them to reject mobilization to violence and the attendant balkanization into tribal machines since they have the longest-term interest in the outcome of the elections. It is to their interest to make Kenya a convenient home for everyone. The Clergy and Elders will thus urge the youth to clarify their interests in the elections and demand youth-specific political formations that will give them opportunities to engage in social-economic and political life of the nation.
h) Financing Councils of Elders
The Clergy and Elders will consult and develop mechanisms for raising funds for their activities so as to ensure they have independence and are not dependent on funding by individual politicians.
5. Issues of National Concern
As the country continues with the preparations for elections, we the Clergy and Elders take note that there is a growing concern with regard to the security situation in different parts of the country. While we appreciate the efforts that are being made, we urge the government to exert all possible effort to assure all Kenyans of their safety before, during and after elections.
The Bible is very clear on the responsibility that each person has, regardless of their positions, to promote peace in the community. This is captured very clearly in Romans 14: 19 – “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification”.
We the Clergy and Elders drawn from across the country have thus committed to actively make peace before, during and after the elections.
We call upon all Kenyans to constantly remember the words of our National Anthem:
O God of all creation, bless this our land and nation
Justice be our shield and defender
May we dwell in unity, peace and liberty
Plenty be found within our borders