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Why Uhuru will not be campaigning for Raila Odinga

By Jacob Ngetich | May 19th 2022 | 3 min read
By Jacob Ngetich | May 19th 2022
President Uhuru Kenyatta with ODM leader Raila Odinga at Azimio la Umoja Council meeting at KICC. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta has changed tack in the battle for nearly five million votes in 15 battleground counties.

After attending the launch of the Azimio la Umoja, it was expected that the President would start vote hunting for the coalition nominee Raila Odinga.

But Mr Kenyatta allies have indicated that he would not hit the campaign trail, just yet. The President also missed the unveiling of the Azimio la Umoja Kenya One running mate Martha Karua on Monday, although he was said to be out of the country.

But yesterday, Jubilee Vice Chairman David Murathe termed it a tactical retreat to allow the Azimio aspirant run his campaigns.

“Uhuru has set the ball rolling. Everything is in place, but the President will not be on the ground to campaign. His absence during the unveiling of Raila’s running mate does not speak to issues in Azimio, but was calculated to have the aspirant run his campaign,” said Mr Murathe.

He said President Kenyatta will be running the show from behind the scene, and had unleashed the Jubilee Party machinery to campaign for Raila.

The party Director of Elections Kanini Kega said at an opportune time, Mr Kenyatta will come out to beat the drum for the Azimio team. “We are an advance team; we’re already on the road marketing Raila. When time is ripe Uhuru will be on the ground,” said the Kieni MP. 

Other sources say some of the President’s political advisers were cautious of dragging him into the political mud of campaigns as he heads to retirement.

Instead, they prefer the use of delegations, opinion leaders and point men from across the country.

While opening the 9th Africities Summit in Kisumu, President Kenyatta, unlike in previous trips to the city, did not join Raila in street rallies.

In April, Mr Kenyatta had promised that when the time comes, he would be on the ground to turn the tide in favour of the Azimio presidential aspirant, especially in Mt Kenya region.

While addressing congregants at the African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa in Kandara, Murang’a County on April 14, the President hit out at those opposed to his involvement in his succession politics. 

“There are those who think I would not be on the campaign trail. They should hold their horses. They will see me traversing the country telling the people my truth, where do they think they can take me? I am also a Kenyan and have my democratic rights,” he said.

Since the “handshake” in March 2018, President Kenyatta has enjoyed a cordial relationship with the ODM leader, which eventually morphed into a coalition.

Deputy President William Ruto and his Kenya Kwanza Alliance brigade have repeatedly branded Raila a State project, and have sought to associate the former prime minister with Jubilee failures. The narrative has in the past forced Raila to defend himself, claiming that from time to time, he has been his own man.

The president’s absence from the campaigns leaves Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga to square it out in the remaining 81 days as they try to win the battlegrounds.

Going by the 2013 and 2017 elections, if both Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga replicate victories in their strongholds, the DP will garner more votes in Rift Valley and Mt Kenya while Raila will take the lead in his Nyanza backyard, Western and Coast regions.

Buoyed by their respective running mates, Dr Ruto has segmented the country into nine regions while Raila has stratified it into 12 units for ease of campaigns. It is this rationale the leaders are following while signing deals with respective communities.

While unveiling his running mate on Saturday, Dr Ruto named politicians who will be in charge of the nine regions.

The battlegrounds include Kwale with 320,782 votes, Tana River (137,661), Lamu (79,157), Garissa (207,435), Wajir (196,466), Mandera (211,098), Marsabit (164,864), Isiolo 86,143, Kitui (532,267), Machakos (690,243), Makueni (474,493).

Others are Turkana (241,583), Samburu (98,081), Narok (397,618), Kajiado (463,546) Trans Nzoia 395,741 and Nairobi (2,505,199), bringing the vote count to about 4,697,178.

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