Po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ties split Kenya as poll looms

Keny­atta, Odinga wrap up pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

THEIR fa­thers were al­lies in the strug­gle for Kenya’s in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tish colo­nial rule, and then be­came ad­ver­saries. Now Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta and op­po­si­tion leader Raila Odinga are ex­tend­ing the fam­ily ri­valry in a tightly con­tested elec­tion dogged by eth­nic al­le­giances and per­son­al­ity pol­i­tics.

The two men, who also faced off in a 2013 elec­tion marred by op­po­si­tion al­le­ga­tions of vote-rig­ging, are vy­ing for power in a rel­a­tively open so­ci­ety in to­mor­row’s vote.

Yet for many ob­servers, the his­tor­i­cal di­vi­sions em­bod­ied in the com­pe­ti­tion be­tween the Keny­atta and Odinga dy­nas­ties over­shadow the prom­ise of Kenyan democ­racy.

Un­like Odinga, Uhuru Keny­atta was not a can­di­date in a flawed 2007 vote, but eth­nic-fu­elled po­lit­i­cal an­i­mos­ity erupted into post-elec­toral vi­o­lence that killed more than 1 000 peo­ple and forced 600 000 from their homes.

The two can­di­dates held fi­nal cam­paign ral­lies on Satur­day amid wor­ries that the up­com­ing vote could also be vi­o­lent, though more than 100 000 se­cu­rity of­fi­cers have been de­ployed to vot­ing cen­tres.

Some in the na­tion of 44 mil­lion peo­ple have left the cap­i­tal, Nairobi, be­cause of the threat of chaos, while many sim­ply went home to vote.

Keny­atta wrapped up his cam­paign for re-elec­tion with a mas­sive rally at Nakuru’s Afraha Sta­dium in north-west Kenya where he urged Kenyans to re-elect him to con­tinue with de­vel­op­ment projects.

Keny­atta’s main chal­lenger, Odinga, ad­dressed his sup­port­ers at a pub­lic park in cen­tral Nairobi where he ex­pressed his com­mit­ment to free, fair and peace­ful elec­tions.

Dur­ing the rally, Keny­atta said Kenya is much bet­ter than it was in 2013 when the Ju­bilee Party took power.

“We have laid down the foun­da­tion for pros­per­ity and we now need to fin­ish the job,” he said.

He listed the achieve­ments Kenya had made over the past four years, in­clud­ing the con­struc­tion of the Stan­dard Gauge Rail­way and more than 7 000km of tar­mac roads in the coun­try.

Keny­atta said he would fo­cus on poverty al­le­vi­a­tion and job cre­ation for youth by fi­nanc­ing new in­fra­struc­ture projects and spe­cial eco­nomic zones if re-elected.

For his part, Na­tional Su­per Al­liance pres­i­den­tial flag bearer Odinga pledged to ad­dress the high cost of liv­ing, poverty, in­equal­ity and eth­nic­ity once elected to oc­cupy the high­est of­fice.

“Our main goal once elected will be to re-en­er­gise the fight against poverty, cor­rup­tion, in­equal­ity and youth un­em­ploy­ment that has slowed down our progress,” he said.

He also promised to pro­mote in­clu­sive de­vel­op­ment if elected.

In the past week, the coun­try’s two main polling or­gan­i­sa­tions in­di­cated a nar­row race, with one say­ing Odinga was ahead by a per­cent­age point and the other say­ing Keny­atta was ahead by three per­cent­age points.

This could be the last big po­lit­i­cal push for both the 55-year-old Keny­atta, who by law can­not run for a third term if he wins next week, and Odinga, who at 72 has failed to win the top post in three pre­vi­ous at­tempts dat­ing to 1997. Their per­son­al­i­ties over­shadow the groups they lead.

Al­though Kenya has a di­ver­si­fied and so­phis­ti­cated econ­omy, “its pol­i­tics now re­main re­ally in the grip of a few eth­nic, oli­garchic fam­i­lies that es­sen­tially prac­tice ‘ma­chine’ pol­i­tics”, said Mu­rithi Mutiga, a Nairobi-based se­nior an­a­lyst for the In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group. He said the phe­nom­e­non cre­ates a “very is­sue-free kind of pol­i­tics” in which can­di­dates rely on eth­nic vot­ing blocs and se­cure loy­alty by be­stow­ing on sup­port­ers the ma­te­rial perks of power.

Eth­nic-based pol­i­tics have been per­pet­u­ated in in­de­pen­dent Kenya since the days of Bri­tish rule, when colonists crafted eth­ni­cally ho­moge­nous dis­tricts as part of their “di­vide and rule tac­tics”, Mutiga said. Jomo Keny­atta, an eth­nic Kikuyu and fa­ther of the cur­rent pres­i­dent, led Kenya from in­de­pen­dence in 1963 un­til his death in 1978. His first vice-pres­i­dent was Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, an eth­nic Luo who later fell out with him.


Main op­po­si­tion leader Raila Odinga greets sup­port­ers through the sun­roof of his ve­hi­cle as he ar­rives for his fi­nal elec­toral cam­paign rally at Uhuru Park in Nairobi on Satur­day.

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