In a move that resembles a Trump backing a Clinton in a US election, Kenya’s outgoing president Uhuru Kenyatta wants to hand over the political crown to his enemy friend Raila Odinga – only to see his deputy William Ruto try to grab him in the 9th . Elections in August.
It has sparked a political drama in which Ruto has portrayed himself as a “hustler” fighting what he sees as an attempt by two of Kenya’s greatest dynasties – the Kenyattas and Odingas – to stay in power.
In an effort to evoke the sympathy of Kenyans, he has prayed, wept and made the incendiary claim that President Kenyatta threatened him.
“As long as you don’t kill my children I will face you, but please let’s respect each other,” Ruto said at one of his last campaign rallies as a crowd cheered him on.
Mr Kenyatta refuted his claim, saying, “You have insulted me for almost three years. Has anyone touched you?”
Their exchange showed how personal and bitter Kenya’s election campaign has become, as Mr Kenyatta spoke out in support of Mr Odinga as his successor.
“The president has diverted the focus from Ruto, to exchange words with him and forget about his competitor,” 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 right,” he added.
Another analyst, Prof. Macharia Munene, said these sharp exchanges made Mr. Odinga “look like the sober” during the campaign, although he also dealt some blows on Mr. Ruto, questioning his claim of being a scammer by making him ” a man of land” – a reference to the long-running controversy over how the vice president became a landowner in Kenya. He denies that he acquired land illegally.
President Kenyatta’s move to support Odinga was seen by him as an attempt to secure his legacy by reuniting two families who fought together against British colonial rule – only to fall apart in 1966, three years after independence. .
It meant Ruto, with whom he formed an alliance in the 2013 elections to dismiss charges against the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the deadly violence that hit Kenya after the 2007 poll.
“What had united them is gone,” Prof Munene said, adding, “Now Ruto wants to be elected and Uhuru wants his legacy so that their interests clash.”
Mr Kenyatta first made overtures to Mr Odinga after the disputed 2017 polls. Odinga rejected the results, calling for a boycott of several companies, including one associated with the Kenyatta family, and proclaiming itself “ People’s President” during a huge rally in the capital Nairobi.
“Uhuru had to take in Raila because he was able to immediately cause trouble and hinder his work,” said Prof. Munene, adding that the 77-year-old veteran politician accepted Mr Kenyatta’s olive branch as it affected his chances of becoming president. to be reinforced after four failed attempts.
“Mr. Odinga seems more desperate because of his age, and this seems to be his last chance,” said Prof Munene.
The Kenyatta and Odinga families are extremely wealthy. Their fortune is unclear, but the public got a glimpse of the Kenyatta’s wealth when the Pandora Papers linked them to offshore investments, including a company with stocks and bonds worth $30 million (£22 million).
Mr. Ruto is also wealthy, but he has portrayed himself as someone who – having once sold chickens and groundnuts by the side of the road – understands the plight of the poor and will defend their interests if he is elected.
“While we are busy planning how the lowest Kenyan will be elevated, some other agents in hotels are planning how to install a puppet president that they will control as they please, so that their selfish interests be served permanently,” Ruto once said. he said at a meeting—rules he often repeated and dismissed as false by his opponents.
Since women make up almost half of registered voters, Odinga, unlike Ruto, has elected a female running mate, former Justice Minister Martha Karua.
Prof. dr. Lumala described her as a breath of fresh air in a male-dominated campaign, saying she had given Kenyans their “Kamala Harris” moment on the campaign trail.
“We could see an element of motherhood [in her]. She kept her sanity and even when she hit, she was measured in her language,” he added, though she too attacked Mr Ruto in the final days of the campaign, telling him to “stop trying to act as a deputy.” to be Jesus” by crying during prayer meetings.
Mr Ruto has focused strongly on winning over the youth – not surprising given that the official unemployment rate among 18-34 year olds is close to 40%, and the economy is not creating enough jobs to support the 800,000 young people who are on the job every day. to cope with the labor market. year.
Ruto has therefore coined the phrase “Hustler Nation” to refer to the young people struggling to make ends meet, and he has promised a “bottom-up approach” to the economy, saying it will help the poor. will benefit.
Mr Odinga’s manifesto relies on manufacturing and industrialization to create jobs.
He has also promised two million needy households a monthly stipend of 6,000 Kenyan shillings ($50; £40) from a new social protection fund if he is elected president.
There are also two lawyers running for president:
George Wajackoyah, whose central promise has been to create jobs through the production of marijuana for industrial use and
David Mwaure, who has campaigned for a platform to tackle government corruption.
Both frontrunners spent huge amounts of money on the four-month official campaign period and criss-crossed the country in their convoys — including luxury helicopters — to win voters’ favor.
“It’s a show of power and in the midst of increasing poverty – it’s like mocking people,” said Prof. Munene.
But, he added, the crowd didn’t mind because they were often paid to attend rallies, giving them a chance to make some money.
No one knows if they will cheat their paymasters 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 Messrs Kenyatta, Ruto and Odinga.
Some experts predict that neither candidate will exceed the magic 50%, forcing a second round.
Others believe there will be a clear winner, but the result will be challenged by the defeated candidate.
The 2017 election was so marred by irregularities, including manipulation, that Kenya’s highest court annulled the result — and ordered a new one that Kenyatta won after Odinga boycotted it.
This time the Election Commission says it is better prepared to guarantee a free and fair poll, in which Mr Kenyatta will hand over the reins of power to his enemy turned friend, or his friend turned enemy.