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Kenya’s election wrestling match: Dynasties v Hustlers


People at a rally in Kenya – some sitting at a sign – Aug 3, 2022

In a move similar to Trump’s backing of Clinton in the US election, Kenya’s outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta wants to hand the political crown to her friend Raila Odinga, who is her enemy – only to see her deputy William Ruto try to snatch her in the 9 August election.

This sparked a political drama that saw Mr. Ruto see himself as a “cheater” fighting what he saw as Kenya’s two largest dynasties, the Kenyattas and the Odingas, an attempt to cling to power.

Trying to arouse the sympathy of Kenyans, she prayed, cried, and made provocative allegations that President Kenyatta had threatened her.

“As long as you don’t kill my children, I’ll face you, but please let’s respect each other,” said Mr. Ruto, as a crowd applauded him at one of his recent campaign rallies.

Refuting his claim, Kenyatta said, “You insulted me for three years. Has anyone touched you?” said.

Their exchange showed how personal and bitter Kenya’s election campaign has become as it supports Mr Odinga as Mr. Kenyatta’s successor.

“The president diverted Ruto’s focus to exchange words with him and forget about his opponent,” Kenyan political analyst Prof Masibo Lumala told the BBC.

“The president has managed to bring out a side of his deputy that shows his anger, which is not a good thing,” he said.

Kenya's Vice President and presidential candidate (C) Kenya Kwanza (Kenya first) political party coalition arrive in a car during their rally in Thika, Kenya on August 3, 2022.

Vice President William Ruto fell out with President Kenyatta in his second term

Prof Macharia Munene, another analyst, said these sharp speeches made Mr Odinga “like a sober” during the campaign, but dealt some blows to Ruto and questioned the fraud claim, labeling him “a land man”. To the longstanding debate about how the vice president became a large landowner in Kenya. He denies acquiring land illegally.

President Kenyatta’s move to support Mr Odinga was seen by him as an attempt to secure his legacy by reuniting two families who had fought jointly against British colonial rule – but fell apart in 1966, three years after independence.

This meant leaving Mr. Ruto, with whom he had allied in the 2013 election, to fight the charges they were facing at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the deadly violence that struck Kenya after the 2007 election.

“What united them has disappeared,” Prof Munene said, adding: “Now Ruto wants to be elected and he wants the Uhuru legacy, so their interests conflict.”

Mr. Kenyatta first made an offer to Mr. Odinga after the controversial 2017 polls. Rejecting the results, Mr. Odinga called for a boycott of several companies, including those linked to the Kenyatta family, and declared himself “president of the people” at a major rally in the capital, Nairobi.

“Uhuru had to adapt to Raila because she can cause instant trouble and hinder her business,” Prof Munene said, adding that the 77-year-old veteran politician accepted Mr Kenyatta’s olive branch as it improved his chances of becoming president after four failures. trials.

“Mr Odinga seems more desperate due to his age and this seems to be his last chance,” said Prof Munene.

Raila Odinga, presidential candidate of the Azimio la Umoja (Aspiration for Unification) coalition, and her deputy Martha Karua (right) attend the launch of the party manifesto in Nairobi ahead of this year's August elections on 6 June 2022.

Raila Odinga selects former Minister of Justice Martha Karua as her nominee

The Kenyatta and Odinga families are extremely wealthy. It’s unclear how much their wealth is worth, but the public got a glimpse of the Kenyattas’ wealth when the Pandora Papers tied them to overseas investments, including a company with $30m (£22m) worth of stock and bonds.

Mr. Ruto is also rich, but has portrayed himself as someone who understands the plight of the poor – who once sold chicken and peanuts by the roadside – and will defend their interests if elected.

“While we are busy planning how to raise the lowest level Kenyan, some other agents are busy planning how to install a puppet president in hotels that they will control at will to continue serving their selfish interests,” Ruto said. said at a rally – lines that he often repeated and were rejected by his opponents as untrue.

Almost half of the registered voters are women. Mr. Odinga, unlike Mr. Ruto, chose a female candidate for Martha Karua, the former Minister of Justice.

Professor Lumala described him as a breath of fresh air in a male-dominated campaign and said he gave Kenyans “Kamala Harris” moments on the way to the campaign.

“We could see an element of motherhood [in her]. He kept his sanity and was restrained in his tongue even when hitting,” he added, attacking Mr. Ruto in the final days of the campaign, crying out at prayer meetings, saying that he must “stop trying to be Jesus the Helper”.

Mr. Ruto has focused heavily on recruiting youth – not surprising given the official unemployment rate for 18- to 34-year-olds is around 40% and the economy is not creating enough jobs to absorb the 800,000 youths entering the workforce every day. year.

Mr. Ruto therefore coined the phrase “Hustler Nation” to refer to young people struggling to make a living, promising a “bottom-up approach” to the economy, saying it would benefit the poor.

Mr. Odinga’s manifesto relies on manufacturing and industrialization to create jobs.

He also pledged to pay two million needy households 6,000 Kenyan shillings ($50; £40) per month from a new social protection fund if elected president.

Two lawyers are also vying for the presidency:

  • George Wajackoyah, whose main commitment is to create jobs through the production of cannabis for industrial use, and

  • David Mwaure, campaigner on the anti-corruption platform in government.

Both leaders spent large sums of money during the four-month official campaign to win voters and traveled across the country in convoys—including in luxury helicopters.

“It’s a show of strength and in the midst of growing poverty – it’s like a mockery of people,” said Prof Munene.

But he added that the crowds didn’t mind, as they were often paid to attend rallies, giving them the opportunity to earn some money.

No one knows if they will be able to cheat their salaries by secretly voting for another candidate on Tuesday.

But what is almost certain is that Tuesday’s vote will not end the political drama involving Mr. Kenyatta, Mr. Ruto and Mr. Odinga.

A Samburu woman and Azimio La Umoja (One Kenya Coalition Party) supporters listen to presidential candidate Raila Odinga during a campaign rally in Suswa Grounds, Narok, Kenya, ahead of Kenya's general election, July 30, 2022.

Mr. Odinga hopes his election of a female mate will get many women to vote for him.

Some experts predict that none of the candidates will exceed the magic 50% and force them to the second round.

Others believe that a clear winner will emerge, but the defeated candidate will be challenged.

The 2017 election was so marred by irregularities, including fraud, that Kenya’s highest court overturned the result and made a new decision for Mr Kenyatta to win after Mr Odinga boycotted it.

This time around, the electoral commission says he is better prepared to ensure a free and fair vote, which will see Mr.

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