Kenyatta harvests grassroots rewards
Local strategy provided foundation for election victory, experts say
NAIROBI — Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta won reelection in last week’s vote largely due to an enhanced grassroots campaign strategy and gains from the east African country’s infrastructure development, experts said on Saturday.
According to State House spokesperson Manoah Esipisu, the Kenyatta campaign held more than 400 rallies as part of an intense program, particularly in the final week.
Bob Wekesa, research associate of the China-Africa Reporting Project at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, attributed Kenyatta’s victory to the campaign strategy his Jubilee Party adopted at the grassroots level, which is educating voters about its policies.
“The modus operandi of campaigning by Jubilee was well thought out and this explains why it penetrated into opposition’s strongholds including winning eight parliamentary seats in Western Kenya,” said Wekesa, adding that Jubilee did more footwork than the opposition.
Observers also note that Kenyatta’s well-financed campaigns produced more effective advertising. David Otieno, a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of Nairobi, believes Kenyatta won also “because he chose nationalism over mere political expediency”.
Otieno cited “regular calls for unity and an election slogan of 45-million-strong,” which means Kenyatta’s party serves the country’s total 45 million population, in sharp comparison to the opposition’s 10-million-strong — to get 10 million votes out of the 19.6 million electorate.
“He toured every county to its grassroots several times as he asked for votes. Further to this, his asking for votes was predicated on a developmental model that was not condescending to any tribe,” he said.
Otieno also links Kenyatta’s win to his scores in infrastructure development, citing the 480-kilometer standard gauge railway, put into operation in May between the capital Nairobi and the southeastern port city of Mombasa and which is expected to add 1.5 percent growth to Kenya’s gross domestic product.
Another project is the 360 km Isiolo-Moyale highway, which has opened the trade corridor with Ethiopia.
According to Otieno, Kenyatta also worked to expand specialized medical services including dialysis, and to double the coverage of the National Hospital Insurance Fund to 6 million people. Among his other records are improved digital education and enlarged population with access to electric power.
Kenyatta was also applauded for high-level exchanges with leaders of China, the United States, Europe and the Middle East, trade deals, concessional loan agreements, and more international meetings Kenya hosts.
Foreign Minister Amina Mohammed said Kenyatta greatly helps Kenya in its efforts to entrench its leadership as a regional economic power as well as to achieve global competitiveness.
“Diplomacy is conducted through face-to-face engagements and meetings. Kenya is a very important country in the southern hemisphere, being the only capital in the developing world to host a United Nations office,” Mohammed said.
“These efforts and foreign trips by Kenyatta, have borne positive results,” she said, noting that foreign direct investment inflows into Kenya have risen up and “the investments have resulted in the creation of jobs and wealth.”
Meanwhile, the country was quiet on Sunday after postelection violence left 24 people dead.
There have been repeated calls on the defeated opposition to calm their supporters.
Kenya’s incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta holds the official certificate after he was announced winner of the presidential election in Nairobi on Friday.