A Big Day for Kenya

From left: Presidential candidates Uhuru Kenyatta, James Kiyiapi, Peter Kenneth, Raila Odinga, Mohamed Dida and Martha Karua hold hands while facing the crowd during the National Fasting and Peace prayers at Uhuru Park Nairobi. (via The Daily Nation) This coming Monday is significant for Kenya. They will be hosting their first national election since the tragic post-election violence of 2008. It will also be the first elections held under the new constitution and regional representation structure. The country is confidently optimistic that 2008 will not repeat itself. I don't know what to believe, but I know Kenya needs our prayers.

As you know from our own country, politics is messy. It makes public all of our individual world views and collides (sometimes awkwardly, sometimes violently) together as we look first, with self-interest, and with whatever is left, with public interest. Politics is dramatic, especially in Africa where checks and balances are sub-par and ethnic tribes drive party affiliation. Oh, and two presidential candidates are wanted from the International Criminal Court with charges of crimes against humanity.

On a rainy night in Lwala, James and I watched the first ever televised presidential debate on NTV with our Kenyan friends. Most of them have been impressed with a young, articulate candidate named Peter Kenneth. They say that he is not from the political families that have dominated Kenya, but has a fresh voice of perspective and leadership. When we asked if they were going to vote for him, they replied, No, we must vote for Raila.

Raila Odinga is Kenya's current prime minister and is a Luo from the western part of the country - the same region as our friends here in Lwala. Odinga had technically won the 2008 presidential debate, but due to a corrupt system, was not given power (this is what led to the violence). Here, people are convinced that Raila will finally, justly win this time around, and it is their duty to stay loyal to tribe more than ideology. They are already celebrating Raila's victory.

I prodded a bit more:

But what if Raila loses?

He will not lose.

Okay, but what if someone else wins? Like, what if Kenyatta wins?

(pause) Kenyatta is a criminal. Raila will win.

Just imagine this with me: Kenyatta and Raila are neck to neck, but in the end Raila loses.

(long pause, never having considered it up until asked) People will become very, very upset. They will likely protest.

And that is why we pray. Not for a specific candidate to win. But for a positive mark in history when a nation's citizens are empowered with a vote and united in welcoming a necessary transition of power. For peace and for unity. Amen.