Raila Odinga has always taken care of her image. Candidate for the presidential election next August against William Ruto, the current vice-president, he has been trying for years to pose as an emphatic man close to the people. Entering politics nearly half a century ago, five times candidate for the supreme magistracy, he also presents himself as a dissident and as the incarnation of a certain left in East Africa.
Presidential in Kenya: Raila Odinga’s allies in his electric duel with William Ruto
Is it a coincidence? His daughter, a key figure in his campaign, is called Winnie and one of his sons was baptized Fidel. His commitments to free education, a national health service and a social security system are meant to dovetail with his promises of institutional reform and decentralization. And Raila Odinga loves nothing more than attacking the establishment.
Reversal of alliances
For several months, he has been able to count on the support of the outgoing head of state, Uhuru Kenyatta, son of the country’s first president and heir of one of Kenya’s greatest fortunes. Most of the 47 governors and barons in the center of the country, which has the highest concentration of voters, have promised to vote for him. And when asked how he managed to get their support and if he calmed down, he replies with a smile: “I don’t think so, I’m still the same. It is rather the opposite: they are the ones who have changed and who finally accept me as I am. »
In the aftermath of the disputed 2017 elections, supporters of Odinga and those of Kenyatta seemed ready to fight in blood. The president’s entourage spoke of Odinga as a dangerous radical who threatened the stability of Kenya. Four years later, the second finances the campaign of the first.
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As he says himself, Odinga has changed little. Like Julius Nyerere or Kenneth Kaunda, he sees the goal of politics as bringing about systemic change. Although he was trained as a medical engineer in East Germany during the Soviet era, Odinga never adhered to Marxism, choosing a more progressive line. An evangelical Christian, he can truly claim to “cast a wide net”. Especially since, unprecedented in the history of Kenyan politics, he chose a woman – Martha Karua – as running mate. According to polls published in mid-May, Odinga is in the lead with 39% of voting intentions against 35% for Ruto.
Risk of dispute
“The best outcome would be for either candidate to win by a substantial margin. […]which would reduce the possibility of a risky contestation of the results”, estimates Charles Hornsby, author of the reference work Kenya : A History Since Independence.
Flanked by two of his closest allies – Hassan Ali Joho, governor of Mombasa, and James Orengo, senator – Raila Odinga embarked on a tour across the country and Explain, as soon as he can, the ever-shifting lines of Kenyan politics to diplomats and businessmen. He is trying to attract new voters while bolstering his base with a reform plan that he promises will allow for greater sharing of power among diverse communities and an acceleration of financial decentralization. An essential reform, according to him, to the eradication of corruption which he makes a priority.
He also pleads for a depoliticization and an in-depth reform of the judicial system. “I totally agree that the judiciary should be independent,” he explains. But this judicial power must also be censored when it contributes to perpetuating corruption […]. If it is corrupt, it is an obstacle to investment. How can the Judicial Service Commission be the only body overseeing it? »
Consumption: help, inflation is coming back to Africa!
Despite everything, it is difficult to see in these elections – presidential and parliamentary – of August 9 anything other than a battle between two veterans. Difficult to counter the electoral apathy of many young voters with this. Odinga and Ruto make big promises, but give few details on how they will be implemented or funded. None of the proposals put forward appear to measure up to the headwinds Kenya is facing in the wake of the recession caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to an explosion in public debt and soaring food and food prices. fuels.
The most pressing problems in East Africa’s strongest economy remain unemployment and a dysfunctional labor market. Today, 37% of young Kenyans are unemployed. But neither Ruto nor Odinga seem to have any strategy in this area. And too bad if the subject will undoubtedly be much more important for the outcome of the campaign than all the talk about “the dream kenyan ».