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Kenyan Pastors praying for peaceful presidential polls

Pastors from 20 churches in Eldoret, Kenya, march and pray for peaceful elections. Photograph: Jennifer Huxta/AFP/Getty Images

A fellowship of pastors from 20 churches in Langas, a neighbourhood in Eldoret, Kenya, on Sunday took to the streets to match in solidarity, praying  for peaceful presidential elections ahead of the August 8 vote.

We want to alert our neighbors that we want peace, said Pastor Obed from Word of life Harvest, a Pentecostal Church in Langas.

Local press reports that an estimated 180,000 police officers and members of the security forces are being deployed across Kenya as the country prepares to vote in a fiercely contested presidential election where citizens will either return the incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta, who has been in power since 2013, or elect the veteran opposition politician Raila Odinga.

According to sources, recent opinion polls have not indicated any clear leader in the campaign and turnout will be a key factor. Around 19 million voters, half of whom are under 35, have been registered. Prisoners are able to vote for the first time.

A contested poll in 2007 led to more than 1,000 deaths, and violence could sweep the country again if the losing party refuses to accept the result, The Guardian reports.

At a church service near his home in Nairobi on Sunday, Kenyatta, 55, called for calm. “Do not allow anything to drive a wedge between you. You have been good neighbours and I urge you to remain so regardless of your tribe, religion or political affiliation,” the president said.

UG Christian News has learnt that Uganda has over the past two weeks received several Kenyan nationals who are unsure of the aftermath of the poll in relative safety. Within Kenya, many have been stocking up on provisions in case of trouble. Streets have emptied and business has slowed.

Human rights officials, community leaders and politicians have according to the Guardian, called on voters to “control their emotions and preserve a peaceful environment” when the results are announced. Observers see the election as the last showdown of a dynastic rivalry between the families of Kenyatta, 55, and Odinga, 72, that has lasted more than half a century.

Odinga is making his fourth attempt to gain power. He claims that elections in 2007 and 2013 were stolen from him. He claimed there was vote rigging, however he took his complaints to the courts instead of the streets and despite some rioting after he lost his case, the process ended peacefully.

A new biometric system of voter identification and counting was introduced after the 2007 election but partially failed in 2013.

Additional Reporting by The Guardian.

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