Politics took a back seat on Saturday as Deputy President William Ruto and retired President Daniel arap Moi shared the podium at Eldoret Catholic Bishop Cornelius Korir’s silver jubilee celebrations in Eldoret.
And in a show of respect, Mr Ruto altered protocol to allow the retired president to deliver the keynote speech at the Mother of Apostles Seminary in a ceremony attended by a huge crowd of Catholic faithful.
The two arrived separately and sat next to each other, sharing light moments that seemed to reduce the political tension in the Rift Valley where Mr Ruto and the retired President’s son, Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, are engaged in a heated supremacy battle.
In his speech, Mr Ruto said the Jubilee government would support peace initiatives spearheaded by religious leaders in the country.
“The top Jubilee government top brass will soon hold a meeting with all religious leaders in the country to seek ways on how we can collaborate to bring peace among wrangling communities in the country and more so in the volatile North Rift region,” said Mr Ruto.
The ceremony was also attended by governors Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu), Dr Cleophas Lagat (Nandi), senators Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), Kindiki Kithure (Tharaka Nithi), MPs Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills), Dan Kazungu (Malindi) and Principal Secretaries Dr Belio Kipsang (Education) and Prof Fred Sigor (Livestock).
Mr Ruto said it is through Bishop Korir that he and President Uhuru Kenyatta agreed to work together in the run up to the 2013 General Election.
“Bishop Korir has left a legacy in this country that we must all emulate. The Jubilee government is going to back Bishop Korir up in his efforts of preaching peace to avert killings as a result of raids and cattle rustling among wrangling communities.”
Mr Moi described Bishop Korir as “a true servant of God” who has committed himself to preaching peace just as Jesus did.
“We should be true ambassadors of Jesus Christ by emulating His work just like what we have seen in Bishop Korir for the past 25 years.
“We should not discriminate one another on land, tribal or religious grounds, but work together in embracing peace and love amongst ourselves,” said Mr Moi.
The former president said it was his prayer that God grants the cleric more years so that he continues to serve the Church.
The Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya, Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo, represented Pope Francis at the ceremony.
Other Bishops present were Philip Anyolo (Homa Bay), Joseph Mbatia (Nyahururu), Dominic Kimengich (Lodwar), Maurice Antony Crowley (Kitale), Joseph Obanyi (Kakamega), David Kamau (Nairobi County) and Alfred Rotich (military ordinate).
Nandi Governor Cleophas Lagat, just like his Uasin Gishu counterpart Jackson Mandago, urged residents of Turkana, West Pokot, Baringo and Samburu counties to embrace peace and stop the decade-long conflicts in the region.
“We shall never see development in these counties if the conflicts are not stopped. People in these areas should bring to an end their differences and embrace peace,” said Governor Lagat.
Senator Kindiki Kithure asked Bishop Korir to keep the country in prayers especially this time of insecurity in some areas.
“I want to congratulate the Bishop as he celebrates 25 years of serving the Church and at the same time appeal to him to continue preaching peace especially right now when the country is faced with the Al-Shabaab menace,” said Kindiki who is also the Majority leader in the Senate.
Malindi MP Dan Kazungu, who was the only opposition member at the ceremony, hailed the Eldoret cleric for his efforts in building peace among all conflicting communities saying that his presence at the function reflected the togetherness of Kenyans.