Election fever grips Kenya… as Africa keeps watch

SANF 22 no 18 – by Kizito Sikuka in Nairobi

The weather may be getting chilly here in Nairobi, Kenya. However, the political environment is already heating up with the campaign period officially opening on 29 May.

Kenyans will this year go to the polls on 9 August to choose a President and Members of Parliament, and events leading to the much-anticipated general election are worth not only to watch but to analyze.

The incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and leader of the Jubilee party is not seeking re-election after having served his second and final term in office as per the Constitution of the country.

However, his mark will still be felt in the elections as on 24 February he formally endorsed his longtime rival, Raila Odinga, leader of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party to be his successor over Deputy President William Ruto, who was his running mate in the last election held in 2017.

President Kenyatta had pushed for Ruto’s resignation from government asserting that he had failed to perform his duties as required, but the Kenyan Constitution restricts the President from firing his or her deputy as the two are voted into office together.

The Jubilee and ODM have since formed a coalition with several other parties ahead of the 9 August election with Odinga, a former Prime Minister leading the Azimio La Umoja One-Kenya coalition with the backing of Kenyatta.

Previously, President Kenyatta and Odinga were opposing forces and their 2017 elections sparked widespread politically-motivated violence that led to deaths and injuries and prompted the International Criminal Court to issue a probe into the matter.

Ruto, who was expelled from the Jubilee party has now formed the United Democratic Alliance (UDA).

The UDA has also forged a coalition with other parties, and Ruto will lead the alliance under the banner Kenya Kwanza Alliance (KKA).

Odinga, who has taken part in four previous presidential elections without success has selected former Justice Minister, Martha Karua as his running mate, while Ruto has chosen Rigathi Gachagua – former personal assistant to Kenyatta.

The President in Kenya is elected using a modified version of the two-round system. To win in the first round, a candidate must receive over 50 percent of the vote and at least 25 percent of the vote in a minimum of 24 of the 47 counties.

The 47 counties of Kenya are geographical units envisioned by the 2010 Constitution of Kenya as the units of devolved government, and are single-member constituencies for the election of members of parliament to the Senate of Kenya, as well as special women members of parliament to the National Assembly of Kenya.

Addressing a packed stadium in Nairobi recently, Odinga said he is ready to lead the country and build a “democratic and progressive Kenya”

He also hailed President Kenyatta for backing his candidature despite their previous differences.

“I do hereby accept to present myself as a presidential candidate for the presidential elections of the 9th of August 2022,” he said, adding that “It takes a seasoned statesman to shake the hand of his rival … In the course of our discussions, we agreed that Kenya is greater than the two of us.”

Ruto said he is the man to bring “true and real change” to Kenya and break away from “dynasties.”

This is in reference to the Kenyatta and Odinga families which have dominated Kenyan politics.

Since in 1963, Kenya has had four presidents — Jomo Kenyatta (1963-1978); Daniel Arap Moi (1978-2002); Mwai Kibaki (2003-2013) and Uhuru Kenyatta (2013 to present).

“We should go into this election and make sure that election will be peaceful and that it won’t be necessary for us to have a handshake,” he said, in reference to the peace deal signed by President Kenyatta and Odinga in 2018 that has led to the current pact between the once rivals.

The election campaign period in Kenya will run from 29 May to 6 August, and the African Union as well as other regional organizations such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are expected to observe the elections in phases: the pre-election period, election-day and post-election.

The observer missions including the SADC Election Observation Mission (SEOM) will be guided by the provisions and requirements of the Kenyan Constitution and are expected to produce a report on the conduct of the polls. sardc.net

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