Every election cycle in Kenya has been accompanied by controversy due to a toxic political environment, which often results in conflict and crisis. This leads to the fragmentation of the nation and ethnicity-driven propaganda which has had a negative influence on Kenyans. The need to stop the cycle motivated a strong focus on prevention and preventing the recurrence of electoral violence by various key stakeholders. During this electioneering period, Information that was being received indicated an increased worry and tension in the country. This was worsened by misinformation and disinformation, especially through social media platforms.
Therefore Inter-Religious Council Of Kenya (IRCK) in partnership with various stakeholders and partners took up the role of calling for peace, and cohesion, countering hate speech and strengthening the mediation capacities of Religious Leaders before during and after the elections and to address immediate and underlying causes of conflict and division through religious cooperation and action.
IRCK convened stakeholder meetings including Religious Leaders (Clergy, women and youth) for scenario buildings across the counties, for purposes of information synergy. They held community dialogues, and town hall dialogues, conducted conflict scans, held interfaith prayers and urged their congregants to elect leaders of value as they called for peace, cohesion and countering hate speech in the country. Interfaith Youth held Interfaith Youth Week across the counties through arts, football tournaments and other sports activities they highlighted the youth agenda in the Counties, and this culminated in a National Youth convention where they highlighted their call to the vying leaders.
IRCK facilitated gender monitors and observers training to help rely on first-hand information on the election process from their respective counties. This training had over 300 observers and monitors who included Women of Faith, Interfaith Youth, Clergy and media practitioners from various counties. The monitors reported any incidents to the IRCK Women Situation Room by giving timely information and data concerning the election proceedings and incidences as they occurred in various counties.
The IRCK Women Situation Room was launched on 28th July 2022 in Nakuru County and was operational from 8th August 2022. The women’s situation during the 2022 General Election objective was to increase the participation of women in electoral processes and mitigate violence against women in elections among other GBV-related issues. It hosted the IRCK panel of Eminent Women Leaders and the National Peace and Mediation Team. The initiative was to synergise the efforts and information received from the IRCK Interfaith Networks across the country including Youth Interfaith Networks and Women Interfaith Network.
The Inter-Religious Council of Kenya (IRCK) in collaboration with key partners strengthened the mediation capacity and coordination of existing efforts through the establishment of a National Peace and Mediation Team (NPMT). The NPMT, in close collaboration with the Women’s Mediation Network supported in collaboration with UN Women, undertook Prevention and Rapid Response activities at the national level and in Lamu, Wajir, Nakuru and Isiolo Counties which had been identified as hot spot counties. The team, comprised of eminent Kenyans drawn from diverse sectors and initiatives, both state and non-state actors, representing different regions and sectors of the Kenyan population brought together by the common interest of securing Kenya.
The National Peace and Mediation Team worked with political actors and key electoral institutions that are charged with managing elections to ensure that any arising disputes were amicably resolved in a way that promoted peace, justice and civic rights in Kenya.
IRCK mobilised Religious Leaders and other stakeholders including the UWIANO Platform for Peace actors in the production of peace messages, held press briefings and participated in social media campaigns to push key messages on peace, cohesion and curbing of hate speech.
IRCK facilitated radio talk shows in local/vernacular radio stations in the counties to disseminate messages of cohesion, peace and counter hate speech; and do post elections reflection. A Social media campaign was conducted highlighting peace messages during the post-election period calling for peace, cohesion and countering hate speech. IRCK mobilized social media influencers, and interfaith youth and engaged the UWIANO partners to participate in the social media campaign and online posters and IEC materials were used to disseminate messages of peace and cohesion. UWIANO being a multi-stakeholder structure comprised of strategic state and non-state institutions working on electoral violence reduction was strategic in spreading messages that counter hate speech and incitement to violence.
After the 2022 General Elections, the presidential elections were disputed by the Azimio coalition who lost to the Kenya Kwanza coalition and as a result, presented the case to the Supreme Court. Religious leaders’ mandate was to offer spiritual support and moral guidance intervened and conducted Shuttle Diplomacy with key leaders including the former HE. President Uhuru Kenyatta, President Dr William Ruto, Former prime Minister, RT. Hon. Raila Odinga, IEBC Chairman Mr Wafula Chebukati with the other two commissioners and CEO and the four other dissenting commissioners led by Ms Juliana Cherera. The emphasis of the shuttle diplomacy was peace premised on the pursuit of Truth and Justice for all within the confines of the constitution and law and magnanimity taking into consideration that Kenyans were the most important aspects of this discourse.
Mediation efforts by the Religious Leaders were instrumental in holding the country together before, during, and after the elections. In the post-election period, continuous mediation is needed to promote political reconciliation and address inter-communal tensions that emerged during the political campaigns and grievances over long-standing issues in areas mapped as hot spots.
IRCK continues to partner with strategic partners to call and ensure there is peace and cohesion in the country. Religious Leaders continue to engage and establish collaboration and stronger partnerships to ensure better understanding and enhanced coordination of peace actors at national and County levels; provide an opportunity for individuals, and organizations to promote peace and enhance trust between the community and security agencies.
By Mary Ndulili