Leaders stuck in perpetual campaign mode

By Brian Otieno | Aug 09, 2023
President William Ruto. [PCS]

One year after Kenyans voted in the General Election, the campaign fever has never abated.

From the sunroofs of their vehicles to podiums, leaders continue to dish out heavy doses of politics. And so barely 12 months later, the country feels as though another election is around the corner.

President William Ruto has spent the past few days in the Mt Kenya region, addressing as many gatherings as a candidate on the campaign homestretch would. That is in addition to his weekly church services where political rhetoric almost displaces the day’s sermon.

The president has termed his visits 'development tours' to launch government projects, but his messaging has been heavier on politics of the day.

Besides justifying his policies and selling his government intentions, promises synonymous with campaigns, Ruto has led government functionaries in castigating the opposition for calling demonstrations over the high cost of living.

To them, it is unfortunate that Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya has not moved on from last year’s presidential election loss, and is playing needless politics, couching election grievances behind protests over the high cost of living.

“They (Azimio) mean to say that one year since the election they don’t know who the president is. Isn’t that lunacy?” Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi has said during several stops in Mt Kenya.

Azimio, too, has kept the tempo high, regularly espousing grievances they insist must be discussed, lest they rally their supporters back to the streets.

After the Supreme Court’s verdict affirming Ruto’s win in last year’s polls, it seemed as though Raila Odinga would let the matter rest when he said he would accept the decision even though he did not agree with it.

Even when he emerged at a Bunge la Wananchi forum at the Jeevanjee Gardens in Nairobi to launch public barazas last October, there was little indication that they would eventually take the shape of public rallies that Azimio would later hold.

An alleged whistleblower account of the polls added some spring in the opposition’s step and the coalition began a push for an audit of the election servers, in addition to its grievances over the high cost of living and the recruitment of new electoral commissioners.

Azimio leader Raila Odinga speaks during a press conference at the Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka (SKM) Command Centre in Nairobi. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The last few months have been full of ultimatums from Azimio to the government, and tough-talking from the Kenya Kwanza leaders, who insist they would not be cowed by threats from the opposition.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei faults the opposition for being unfair to a government that is only a year old.

"It is not fair at all because they are not only putting the country in a campaign mood but also are busy manufacturing non-existent crisis for their selfish political agenda," says Mr Cherargei.

Both sides have been at each other’s throats in their never-ending war of words, a situation that recurs between the government and opposition after every election cycle, with eyes firmly fixed on the next election.

One year later, the opposing coalitions have planned to share a table today to iron out thorny issues. Raila, however, has warned that his coalition will return to the streets if the talks collapse.

Ruto, on the other hand, has stuck to his guns, insisting that he will not yield to their demands, which he says are crafted to get a share of his government.

But the intentions of both coalitions have proven impossible to hide. On the one hand, Ruto is consolidating power and winning new allies as he seeks to penetrate hostile grounds.

He has invited political parties that were allied to the opposition to his side, giving the government side unassailable strength in the Senate and the National Assembly.

Azimio, meanwhile, is keen on capitalizing on the president’s blunders in a bid to scuttle his re-election chances.

University lecturer Gitile Naituli says, "The president now needs to start governing. He is campaigning because he does not believe he won and that is why he is in churches every week and addressing rallies."

Constitutional lawyer Bobby Mkangi argues the government and opposition should compete on technical mandates and not engage in rhetoric that "makes it seem like the election is in a week."

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