Walk the talk on free, fair and peaceful polls

The country’s top leadership yesterday May 26 converged on Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi, for the 19th National Annual Prayer Breakfast meeting.

At the event that was aptly themed “Transitions”, religious leaders and the heads of the three arms of government rallied the country towards peaceful co-existence before, during and after the August 9 general election.

Besides the timely call for Kenyans not to let political differences snowball into enmity and violence, the symbolic value of the event was not lost as it left no doubt that all it would really take for the country to hold together before and after elections is just the right mindset and a choice by every Kenyan to do what is right.

However, it is sad that previous similar promises by politicians to conduct peaceful campaigns, stick to the straight and narrow of the law throughout the electoral process and concede defeat if fairly beaten have been more honoured in the breach than in the observance. For, no sooner are the dark suits of the prayer rally sessions doffed than the political class regresses to their bad old ways of insulting opponents, inciting crowds with unsubstantiated claims and billeting hordes of hired hoodlums on their opponents.

The faiths, civil society, media and other agents of democracy must not only step up their calls for politicians to conduct themselves in a manner that promotes the vision of a free, fair and accountable electoral process but these crucial institutions must remain vigilant and call out anyone who, by act of omission or commission, threatens the integrity of the polls.

The stakes are high. But there is no reason why the country cannot prove the naysayers wrong by conducting free, fair and credible elections followed by a peaceful transfer of power. For this to be realised, everybody—from the voters to the politicians—must play their part. For, while it is the politicians who initiate a compromise of the integrity of the electoral process and incitement to violence, the people must say no to manipulation. Simply, free elections is the duty of all.

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