Kenya’s elections: Raila gets to work

Kenya’s elections: Raila gets to work

Kenya’s election campaign is heating up, and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who is widely expected to run on the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) ticket, is doing his best to challenge President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The governing Jubilee Party, headed by Kenyatta and deputy president William Ruto, is in pole position to win next August’s general election.

The economy has been growing steadily, and the opposition has been unable to land many blows on issues such as corruption or weak delivery of public services.

Odinga is now scouring the country in search of new strategic allies to improve on his score of 43% in the 2013 elections. He held rallies in 20 towns across the country over the past month, according to Dennis Onyango, Odinga’s spokesman.

“We are counting on all parties that are out of the Jubilee orbit: the Kenya African National Union, National Rainbow Coalition, National Rainbow Coalition–Kenya, Chama Cha Mashinani, among others,” Onyango adds.

At the top of Odinga’s list of politicians to poach is ­Musalia Mudavadi, leader of the Amani National Congress. Mudavadi, who ran for president in the 2013 elections, winning 4% of the vote, has said he will run again on his own party’s ticket, but he is being courted by Odinga and Kenyatta. He is seen as a gatekeeper to Kenya’s western areas, which are likely to play a crucial role in next year’s polls.

“The one option Raila has left is to bring in people like ­Mudavadi,” says Nic Cheeseman, a professor in African politics at Oxford University.

“He needs to broaden his alliance to recreate the magic of the Orange Democratic Movement in 2007, when he had these critical and original leaders and he presented himself as a first amongst equals.”

But it is unclear whether Odinga has the blessing of CORD co-principals Moses Wetang’ula and Kalonzo Musyoka.

Odinga has also been courting Gideon Moi, a senator for Baringo County and the son of former president Daniel arap Moi. The power of Moi’s family name is a strong draw for the country’s Kalenjin ethnic group, a growing number of whom say they do not support the leadership of deputy president Ruto. Odinga is also trying to convince Isaac Ruto (no relation to William), the governor of Bomet County and a member of Chama cha Mashinani, to join his coalition. “We are talking to [Moi and Ruto], and they are receptive,” says Onyango.

Meanwhile, Kenyatta and Ruto are trying to flesh out their campaign strategy. After the International Criminal Court threw out both of their cases, which accused the two men of crimes against humanity in the aftermath of the 2007 election, the Jubilee flag-bearers have been searching for a national ­issue upon which to focus their campaign.

In recent weeks, Kenyatta has adopted a defensive tone. He hosted a governance and accountability summit at State House on 18 October. In a televised address, he defended his record on corruption, saying that under his watch the budget of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has increased.

He also said that he had sacked ministers and officials because they had been implicated by corruption investigations. After the conference, presidential spokesman Manoah Esipisu tweeted:

“President [Kenyatta] has played his role in fighting corruption [and] cautioned politicians against using the issue for political gain.” That is not likely to stop Odinga from pointing to the inflated cost of a Chinese-backed rail line or opacity in the management of public funds.

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