Ahead of Kenya’s 2022 national presidential polls, Kenya’s ruling Jubilee party has backed veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga. The move is a clear rejection of Deputy President William Ruto, who has also announced his candidacy for the election slated for August.
Odinga, 77, contested his previous four races as an anti-establishment candidate keen to shake up the system if elected. He is now aligned with President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Although Kenyatta will not be on the ballot due to a constitutional limit of two five-year terms, he’s backing Odinga against his deputy Ruto, whom Kenyatta says is unsuitable to be president of Kenya, East Africa’s biggest economy.
“Very early in my second term I did make it clear to the Kenyan people that mine was a choice of leadership over politics,” Kenyatta said at a meeting of the party’s national delegates council on Saturday.
In Odinga’s 2007, 2013, and 2017 attempts, he challenged the outcomes, stating that the elections were fraudulent. Deadly clashes followed the 2007 and 2017 polls.
He however made peace with Kenyatta in early 2018, effectively sidelining Ruto, who is standing with a new party called United Democratic Alliance, after quitting Jubilee.
Odinga is touting his long experience in national leadership, including a stint as prime minister. He has also promised to stem widespread corruption, pay a monthly stipend of 6,000 shillings to the unemployed, and unite Kenyans across ethnic groups.
Odinga, Kenyatta and Ruto come from three of the four biggest ethnic groups. Both candidates are fighting to secure the support of Kenyatta’s Kikuyu group, the nation’s most populous, which has produced three of the nation’s four presidents since independence from Britain in 1963.
A mild drama ensued when Kenyan businessman Jimi Wanjigi was denied entry to the indoor arena in Kasarani Stadium where the ODM NDC is being held.
Ruto has wooed Kikuyu voters by pledging to shift the government’s economic focus from large infrastructure projects, and big state-owned firms, to small enterprises owned by those he refers to as “hustlers.”
He has sought to portray himself as a proponent for the poor and dismissing Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president, and Odinga, the son of its first vice president, as dynastic elites who are out of reality.
The delegates, all donning the party’s signature red, also formally removed Ruto as Jubilee’s deputy party leader at the Saturday convention.
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