NAIROBI, Kenya — As Kenyans are poised for a repeat presidential election this week after a nullified vote last August, nuns in the Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya are playing a significant role as poll observers and voter educators.
Tensions have increased since Sept. 1, when the country's Supreme Court invalidated the results of the Aug. 8 vote — with 54 percent going to incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta. In its historic ruling, the court cited irregularities ranging from possible hacking to improper verification of results. Some 400,000 ballots, about 2.5 percent of votes cast by more than 15 million Kenyans, were rejected.
Kenyatta insists the election be held as planned on Thursday while his opponent, Raila Odinga, has withdrawn from the race, claiming the unfair election system has not yet been corrected and calling for his supporters to protest the Oct. 26 rerun.
The bishops' conference plans to station close to 1,500 observers nationwide, including 71 sisters, for the new presidential election on Oct. 26. The Catholic body also plans to have a tallying center where the observers will report back all irregularities observed.
The Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya, who organized 37 sisters to monitor the voting and tallying processes in the Aug. 8 election, is now training an additional 18 election observers in Garissa County, a remote region in northeastern Kenya bordering Somalia, and 16 in Nakuru. The observers, who are accredited by Kenya's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, are charged with helping to verify that the elections are free, fair and credible.
The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops "is training election observers across the country in all the Catholic dioceses in Kenya, and they allocated AOSK to train in Garissa because we have a base of sisters there," explained Incarnate Word Sr. Mary Magdalene Kanini, country coordinator of the Kenya sisterhood's Justice and Peace Commission.