In an unprecedented political move -Kenya’s ruling Jubilee party endorsed veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga in a presidential election scheduled for August and rejected Deputy President William Ruto, who has also announced his candidacy.
Odinga, 77, – a former political prisoner who has contested for the presidency and failed four times- is now the front runner in hitly contested Kenyan elections which have at times turned violent . Odinga is now teamed up with President Uhuru Kenyatta and political pundits say he is clearly expected to win the general election which are four months away.
Kenyatta whas already served his constitutional two five-year terms and has come out to endorse Odinga against his deputy Ruto, whom Kenyatta says is unfit to be president of Kenya, East Africa’s biggest economy.
“Very early in my second term I did make it clear to the Kenyan people that mine was a choice of leadership over politics,” Kenyatta said at a meeting of the party’s national delegates council on Saturday.
In Odinga’s last three campaigns for office in 2007, 2013, and 2017, he challenged the outcomes, saying his victories were stolen. Deadly clashes followed the 2007 and 2017 votes.
But he made peace with Kenyatta in early 2018, effectively sidelining Ruto, who is standing with a new party called United Democratic Alliance, after quitting Jubilee. The veteran Odinga is touting his long experience in national leadership, including a stint as prime minister.
He has also promised to stamp out widespread graft, give a monthly stipend of 6,000 shillings ($52.75) to the unemployed, and unite Kenya’s ethnic groups.
Odinga, Kenyatta and Ruto come from three of the four biggest ethnic groups. Both candidates are fighting to secure the support of Kenyatta’s Kikuyu group, the nation’s most populous, which has produced three of the nation’s four presidents since independence from Britain in 1963.
Ruto has wooed Kikuyu voters by pledging to shift the government’s economic focus from large infrastructure projects, and big state-owned firms, to small enterprises owned by what he calls “hustlers.”