NAIROBI, Kenya (BP) -- Among their first formal meetings as Kenya's president-elect and deputy president-elect, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto met with senior religious leaders March 12, even ahead of meeting with outgoing President Mwai Kibaki.

Uhuru won Kenya's presidency with 6,173,453 votes on March 4, meeting the threshold of the country's constitution requiring a 50 percent + 1 total of all votes cast. This was the first election to be held under the new constitution passed by Kenyans in 2010.

The threshold requirement aimed at ensuring that Kenya does not slip into a situation that followed the last elections in 2007 when disputed presidential results led to post-election violence. More than 1,000 people were killed and 660,000 displaced from their homes.

Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya's first post-independence president, Jomo Kenyatta, and his deputy face indictment at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, charged for their alleged role in organizing the 2007-08 post-election violence.

During his meeting with religious leaders at the symbolically-named Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Kenyatta urged politicians and all Kenyans to rise above the partisanship of the latest campaign and join hands to build the country.

The president-elect said Kenyans should focus on nation building, adding that in his government there will be no losers or winners.

Religious leaders are the custodians of conscience, Kenyatta said, commending them for what he called the "noble" role of calling on political leaders to maintain high standards of integrity.

"I congratulate the religious leadership for the manner in which it has continued to engage the political leadership in all matters of national interest. My government will nurture this tradition," Kenyatta said.

Among leaders who attended the meeting were the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) Archbishop Eliud Wabukala; National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) Secretary General Peter Karanja; Africa Inland Church presiding Bishop Silas Yego; Secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Kenya, Vincent Wambugu; and the chairman of the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya, Adan Wachu, who also is secretary general of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims.

Leaders of the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya said they are ready to work with all the newly elected leaders, noting that the council respects the vote of the majority of Kenyans.

"What happened … was a statement by the people of Kenya on the leadership they support," spokesman Vincent Wambugu said. "We … will continue working with Kenyans to get more commitment against corruption, and working towards cohesiveness where we are viewed as one people."

In his acceptance speech, Uhuru Kenyatta, who campaigned by touring Kenya holding prayer meetings among other rallies, had said, "I thank God for sustaining us and for bringing us this far. I thank all those who have remained vigilant in prayer for our nation during this time."

While celebrations by supporters of Uhuru's coalition went on, there were those in other parts of the country who were not happy with the election's outcome.

"As a Christian, it's a disappointment that we have these leaders despite the prayers I made," Syowea Mwikali, a Christian woman in Nairobi, was quoted as saying. "The International Criminal Court case against the elect is an integrity issue that they need to have cleaned up before contesting for any seat."

Mwikali also said, "It's worrying because I placed my trust in God to choose the best leader as led by the Holy Spirit, but the leaders who have been chosen by the majority have caused a ripple and I wonder what is next for this country. On the other hand I see it as an opportunity for God to turn this situation into something beautiful."

Wambugu also acknowledged that the charges against Kenya's new leaders are something that cannot be ignored.

"The leaders are no longer ordinary people, as they were when the charges were brought against them," Wambugu said. "However, we have to give them the opportunity to speak and let the courts make their ruling."

Uhuru Kenyatta did touch on this issue in his acceptance speech but said his government would respect all its international obligations.

"To the nations of the world," the president-elect said, "I give you my assurances that I and my team understand that Kenya is part of the community of nations and while as leaders we are, first and foremost, servants of the Kenyan people, we recognize and accept our international obligations and we will continue to co-operate with all nations and international institutions- in line with those obligations."

Wambugu called on Kenyans not to miss the point of the new leadership in the country by focusing only on the head of state.

"We should focus on the other leaders like governors and senators who have been elected and will be in charge of the devolved system of governance the country has now embraced. The financial requirements of this new system are going to be costly to Kenyans and may drive them to further poverty. This poverty is what leads to tribal blocs. A focus on how to generate resources will help people to focus on issues."

As the country readies itself for the March 26 presidential inauguration, there are potential bottlenecks. Raila Odinga, the defeated presidential candidate, has filed an appeal with Kenya's Supreme Court, contending that the electoral tallying process was not properly carried out by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. He has seven days in which to present his appeal and the court then has two weeks to decide its ruling.

The Inter-Religious Council plans to hold a thanksgiving prayer rally on March 23 to which all the presidential aspirants will be invited.

World Watch Monitor (formerly Compass Direct News, online at www.worldwatchmonitor.org), where this article first appeared, is a California-based news organization reporting on instances of persecution or pressures facing the Christian church around the world. Used by permission.

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