William Ruto and Raila Odinga of Kenya are making a last electoral push
Raila Odinga, Kenya’s veteran opposition leader, stepped onto the platform to address the raucous throng of 20,000 fans supporting his latest presidential bid. “Kenyans have four major enemies: sickness, ignorance, poverty, and corruption,” he told supporters gathered in Kiambu, Kenya’s center city, to celebrate the 77-year-sixth old’s bid to run East Africa’s biggest economy.
“If we destroy the final adversary of corruption,” he remarked amid applause, the country’s problems would be addressed. “I adore Baba because of his persistence: he’s a warrior, a go-getter,” said Peninah Mwithiga, a local musician among them, referring to the senior politician with a Swahili term for “father.”
The backing of departing President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is leaving down after two terms, has increased Odinga’s chances of success. Before they reached a pact four years ago, the two were enemies, and Kenyatta turned to support his long-time foe. After decades of resistance, Odinga, a political prisoner in the 1980s, has become the establishment candidate.
Before Tuesday’s presidential election, the two leading contenders are neck and neck. The presidential election on Tuesday is anticipated to go down to the wire, with Odinga and the other leading contender, Vice President William Ruto, polling neck and neck. Despite serving as the present administration’s deputy leader for two terms, Ruto, 55, portrays himself as a political outsider.
On August 3, William Ruto chats to supporters from a vehicle during his rally in Thika, Kenya. Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images As 22mn Kenyans go to the polls in the middle of an economic crisis, with inflation reaching a five-year high of 8.3 percent in July, affecting food prices in particular, and the country’s public debt skyrocketing.
The economic issues generated by the coronavirus epidemic have been exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine. Odinga’s campaign promises include cash transfers for the underprivileged and debt restructuring negotiations, in addition to battling corruption. Kenya has undertaken huge infrastructure projects in recent years while incurring enormous sums of debt, placing the government at “high risk of distress,” according to the IMF.
Ruto, a former chicken salesman who rose to become one of Kenya’s wealthiest men, has attempted to link himself with Kenyans facing a cost-of-living issue. He has pitched himself as a rags-to-riches narrative, contrasting his ostensibly poor ancestry with Odinga and Kenyatta’s. Both of their dads were heroes in Kenya’s 1963 independence from Britain.
In an interview, Ruto said, “I’ve pushed this campaign to be about trickle down rather bottom up.” “We need to figure out the cost of living, we need to figure out unemployment, and we need to figure out our financial problem.”
His supporters believe the self-taught teetotaller and educated botanist is the right person to lead Kenya forward. Ruto has promised to spend Ks500 billion ($4.2 billion) over five years, mostly on smallholder agriculture. Farmers account for more than 40% of the country’s population.
For many years, Ruto delivered voters to the president on the premise that he would one day replace him – until Kenyatta threw his support behind Odinga. For Ruto supporters, Odinga’s ties to the present president are a detriment.
“Uhuru Kenyatta has left Kenya with the worst legacy it has ever had,” said Protus Karani, a student at a Ruto campaign rally. “We’re searching for a new administration, and Odinga symbolizes the old one,” he said, as fans chanted “the hustler!” at Ruto.
On the eve of the presidential election, people seek their names on the voters’ register at a voting site on August 5.
Many Kenyans think Odinga will win because he has Kenyatta’s support, whom he calls to as his “brother” during rallies. Both candidates have chosen running partners from the main Kikuyu ethnic group. Odinga, a Luo, selected anti-corruption judge Martha Karua, while Ruto, a Kalenjin, chose Rigathi Gachagua, an MP who has been beset by corruption charges that he rejects.
Odinga received 47% of the vote in an Ipsos poll last week, while Ruto received 41%. George Wajackoyah, who is aiming to make Kenya an exporter of marijuana among other things, is a distant third at 3%.
To win outright, a candidate must get more than half of the total votes cast, as well as at least 25% of the votes cast in more than half of Kenya’s 47 counties. The electoral commission has seven days to announce a winner or organize a run-off election. Members of parliament and county governors are also elected by voters.
Analysts and diplomats are concerned that any concerns about the results would spark unrest, citing election violence in 2007 and 2017, which killed 1,200 and 100 people, respectively.
The International Criminal Court investigated Kenyatta and Ruto for the 2007 violence, but the accusations were ultimately dismissed. “The charges leveled against me… were baseless,” Ruto said. Odinga refused to take part in a repeat of the 2017 election and swore himself in as president during a fake inauguration.
Following worries regarding biometric voter registration, computerized voter identification, and the openness of results, Kenya’s election commissioner, Justus Nyang’aya, told voters last week that the votes “cannot be manipulated.”
Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, has advocated for “a calm and open democratic process.”
Most observers believe that any election violence will be minimal this time since top candidates will abstain from inciting disturbance. According to a study conducted last week by Kenyan pollster TIFA, over 66% of respondents had no fears about post-election violence. Odinga feels that his moment has arrived.
“I’ve won before, and I’ve never been recognized a winner,” he remarked in an interview, alluding to the times he feels he was cheated out of victory. “I’m certain that if everything is done fairly, I won’t lose this election.”