By PETER OPIYO
Nairobi, Kenya: It is now official — Kenyans will have eight names from which to pick their fourth President on March 4. This follows the clearance Wednesday by the national electoral body of more candidates, including Mr Raila Odinga of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy and Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, the flag bearer of Jubilee Alliance.
After handing in his papers, Raila, who was accompanied by his running mate, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, headed for a rally at Uhuru Park, where supporters literally braved heavy downpour to create a soaked mosaic of colour, stretching to the four ends of the park. In their thousands they stood in the rain, until it was, like the rally they longed for, over.
Uhuru and the man who would be his deputy should he win, Mr William Ruto, also capped the day they overcame the last hurdle standing in their way to having their names on the ballot paper, with a long but symbolic tour of Nairobi’s densely populated Eastlands area, where most of the local residents are crammed in low-income, mid-level and even degrading informal settlements.
It must be noted that if the winner of Round One won’t have garnered more than 50 per cent of the votes cast and clinched at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in at least half of the 47 Counties, the top two candidates will go for a run off. This means in the second round, if it will come to that, Kenyans choices will be narrowed down to just two names.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission first cleared the Uhuru-Ruto pair, followed by the Raila-Kalonzo set. At Uhuru Park, Raila formally launched his presidential campaign. Speakers here chest-thumped, declaring this was the best bet for Kenya, and victory was in the air.
Uhuru on the other hand meandered through city’s estates, promising his opponents a tough battle to be capped by victory for his side, in the end. “Those who thought we would not be cleared by IEBC to contest the presidency now know better as this great day has come. The journey to State House has begun,” Uhuru declared.
Also cleared was High School teacher Mohamed Dida, who will run on the Alliance for Real Change ticket. His running mate will be Mr Joshua Odongo Onono, also a trained teacher.
Safina presidential candidate Paul Muite and his running mate, former MP Shem Ochwodho, were the last to present their nomination papers before IEBC team led by chairman Isaack Hassan.
The ninth candidate, Chris Matata Musyoka, who had intended to run on a Party of Democratic Unity ticket, was disqualified for failing to show up on time.
On Tuesday, Amani presidential candidate Musalia Mudavadi and his running mate Jeremiah Kioni, as well as Narc-Kenya’s Martha Karua and her running mate, Mr Augustine Lotodo, secured IEBC’s green-light to run.
Also cleared on Tuesday was Mr Peter Kenneth of Eagle Alliance and his running mate Ronald Osumba, as well as Prof James ole Kiyiapi of Restore and Build Kenya and his choice of presidential candidate if he wins, Ms Winnie Kinyua.
At the clearance desk Wednesday, Raila argued that following the dark spell of 2007-2008 post-election chaos, it was time for Kenya to prove to the world she has matured democratically by conducting peaceful polls. “We are going to be very peaceful in our campaigns and we urge our supporters to be peaceful because the whole World is watching us,” said Raila.
Uhuru declared his team would conduct peaceful campaigns and called for respect of the will of the people when they finally vote. “Our commitment is to ensure we have a peaceful election and that the will of Kenyans will prevail,” said Uhuru.
Muite also called for peaceful polls and urged those who may feel aggrieved to seek redress in the courts, saying the Judiciary has been reformed. “We appeal to Kenyans that we have peaceful elections, we now have a Judiciary that we have faith in, if there are disputes let the Judiciary handle them,” advised Muite.
Dida packaged himself a leader of the ‘hopeless,’ saying his candidature was a message to all, that leadership potential resides among the destitute but frustrations have stifled their growth. “My clearance is an answer to prayers of the destitute...potential leaders are everywhere but they can’t move an inch because of frustrations,” said Mr Dida.