President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto on Sunday struck a conciliatory tone as they led thousands of Kenyans in a national prayer service at Nakuru’s Afraha Stadium, four days to the repeat presidential election.
The two, who have recently been running a bare-knuckled campaign against their opponents — the National Super Alliance — after the Supreme Court nullified their election on September 1, steered clear of campaign rhetoric and sent out a message of repentance and tolerance.
President Kenyatta led the gathering in a special prayer for repentance and tolerance across the political divide on a day that Pope Francis asked the world to join him in praying for Kenya as it goes into the election.
“I ask you to unite yourself in prayer for peace in the world. “I am paying close attention in these days to Kenya, which I visited in 2015, and for which I pray, that the whole country might be able to face the current difficulties in a climate of constructive dialogue, having at heart the search for the common good,” the Pope told pilgrims and tourists gathered for the Sunday Angelus prayer at St Peter’s Square at the Vatican.
Yesterday’s five-hour interdenominational prayers anchored on 2nd Chronicles 7:14 were called by the President and were presided over by evangelist Teresa Wairimu of the Faith Evangelistic Ministry assisted by bishops and pastors from various churches.
The two principals were accompanied by their spouses — First Lady Margaret Kenyatta and Mrs Racheal Ruto — and Mr Kenyatta’s mother Mama Ngina.
The Rev Wairimu delivered the sermon borrowing from the Book of Nehemiah: 2:17, urging Kenyans and leaders to put their differences aside and unite to build the country.
Saying that Kenya was in the hands of God, she told elected and appointed leaders not to take divine grace for granted.
“Let’s put our differences aside. Kenya is bigger than any of us. Let’s save our nation, your opinion aside. Let’s come and build our nation. Let’s create our future for our children who will one day ask us what we did for the nation,” she said.
She likened Kenya to the walls of Jerusalem and the President to Prophet Nehemiah who faced stiff opposition from three men who conspired against him.
“You have to carry on the good work that you have begun despite the opposition from Tobias, Sanaballat and Goshem because you are not men’s opinion but you are God’s opinion,” she said, while addressing the President.
The preacher blamed gaps in the Constitution for the problems being experienced in the country.
“I believe we are where we are because when the new Constitution was put in place there were gaps. In whatever business you do make sure there are no gaps because the enemy of your progress will take advantage of the gaps,” she said.
“It is my prayer after October 26 we shall not hear any other stories. We are tired and sick. We don’t want to be taken in political circles, we want to open our stalls, we want to sell our tomatoes…the people are fatigued…we want our nation back,” she said.
The President said he strongly felt the need to ask God for guidance.
“When I called this prayer meeting many criticised me because they thought it was not my responsibility to call the prayers. But I thought as a nation that loves God we should come together, repent and ask God to lead us in the path ahead of us,” he said.
He said no leader could claim to be innocent and “that is why we said it is important for us to repent before God and before our brothers and sisters so that God can grant this nation peace.”
The President said peace was paramount for Kenya’s prosperity, citing Somalia which has endured years of anarchy and suffered massive destruction as a result of bad politics.
“A country without peace cannot move forward. We thank God for the peace he has given us as Kenyans,” he said and urged Kenyans to turn out and vote on October 26, adding that those who wished to stay from the ballot had a right to do so.
“Kenya’s democracy has matured…the most important thing is that whatever your decision, just remember after October 26, your neighbour will continue to be your neighbour whether they voted or not. Let’s not allow politicians to incite us to fighting because of politics,” he said.
Mr Ruto said all was well despite the anxiety over the repeat presidential poll, adding: “ I know there is anxiety in the country. We are here together to tell Kenyans that all is well. God has done it before, he will do it again, He will get us across this hurdle. Thursday will be a new great chapter for our country. It will be a new day for Kenya, contrary to what many have said. We trust in a living God and we believe all is well in our country.”
Leaders kept off campaign politics, instead sending out a message of reconciliation.
Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka said leaders are chosen by God while Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen said he had repented his sins as a politician.
“Before we are politicians we are first the children of God. We have gone through it all and even gone before the Supreme Court, but today here we are before the supreme God. We have misled Kenyans with our opinions but what matters is the opinion of God, respecting each other and our neighbours,” said the Elgeyo-Marakwet senator.
Nasa leader also asks IEBC chairman to admit he cannot oversee a free and credible election.