As Kenya gears up for its general elections, religious leaders in Mombasa have been using their positions in churches and mosques to encourage their followers to remain calm no matter the results of the polling.
Kenya was crippled by post-election violence in 2007 and 2008, and people from all walks of life are doing their part to ensure it does not happen again. In Mombasa, a town where religion plays a big role, imams and pastors alike are urging their followers to promote peace.
As the leader of two mosques in Mombasa, Imam Abdallah Mohammed Kombo wants his followers to remember that life will continue after the elections are over.
“What happened in 2007 and 2008, we are aware of the disadvantages and problems this incurred. And so the message we are telling our members is to preach peace wherever they go, bearing in mind that this election will just come and pass. We will remain here, as neighbors and friends, as we have been doing before. So there’s no need of people fighting or quarrelling or creating tribalism. We are telling people to maintain peace wherever they are, during and after this election.”
Pastor Ronald Makokha agrees. In his role at the Mombasa Pentecostal Church, Makokha says that he has been spreading this message to his congregation for months.
“Like on Sunday, here in church, we were challenging our people that they need to be ready as we go to the next election. Vote for whom you love, but you also need to be ready that you can vote for somebody that you love and they may not make it. So you don’t have to go and kill somebody else. You need to be ready. Vote, yes, but be ready to accept the results, and be peaceful…and that is the message that we are doing every Sunday here.”
In addition, Makokha says that he has mobilized other pastors in the community to do the same.
“And also at our church, we normally host the pastors’ fellowship, with many different pastors coming here every Thursday. And one of things that we have done, we have been encouraging the pastors to speak peace and to encourage peace, and we are also doing prayer through the churches for peace.”
Halima Mohamed works as a program coordinator for the Coast Education Center. She says that the imams are using holy scripture to teach people that violence is not the answer.
“They are actually using the holy Quran and the Hadith of the Prophet to explain it more to the Muslim community, to understand the importance of peace, to understand what it is that we’re here for as ummah, say, the people, and the importance for us to maintain peace in our community; to ensure that we live as brothers and sisters and be each other’s keeper.”
And according to taxi driver Lwangu Washington, people in Mombasa are taking heed.
“People in Mombasa, yes, they do listen to their religious leaders because every single person [belongs] to his own community. People go to the Muslim communities every Friday - people go to the mosques. Every Sunday, people go to the churches, and they do have to listen to what the religious leaders have to say.”
Kenya’s general elections will be held on March 4.