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Eyes on president as he hosts succession front-runners

By Moses Nyamori | October 19th 2021

President Uhuru Kenyatta (C), his estranged deputy William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga. [Courtesy]

Focus will be on President Uhuru Kenyatta tomorrow as he hosts his estranged deputy William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga in Kirinyaga.

It will be the first time the president will be sharing a podium with the two presidential front runners – one an erstwhile bosom friend and another new-found political ally – in his backyard that has been turned into a battleground by the duo.

Ruto and the ODM leader have scaled up their campaigns in the region as the succession race gains momentum.

Although the leaders will be converging at Wang'uru Stadium in Kirinyaga County to celebrate Mashujaa Day, political might is expected to play out between the two rival camps.

Eyes will also be on Uhuru on whether he will announce his preferred successor at the national fete.

Since March 9, 2018 Handshake, Uhuru and Ruto have had a strained working relationship. The president's ties with the ODM leader have, however, grown, creating a perception that he was fronting him for the top seat.

But Ruto seeks to leverage on his decision to back Uhuru in 2013 and 2017 elections to endear himself to Mt Kenya voters. His popularity rating in the region is currently way above his opponents' in the presidential race, according to recent surveys.

On the other hand, Raila is banking on the Handshake and the close working relationship with the president to win support of Mt Kenya.

Interestingly, Uhuru has not “taken” Raila to the region that has always voted against the ODM leader in elections.

Recently, the president heaped praises on Raila when they toured Kibra, Nairobi, and asked voters to make the right choice at the ballot next year.

“When we came together, didn't we experience peace? So where is the problem? Isn’t that what we want? Don’t we want that work to continue? It is up to you. Will you make wise choices? Let us see how you will do it,” said Uhuru last month.

Political analyst and professor of History Macharia Munene yesterday said it was unlikely that the three top politicians would turn the event into a political rally.

Prof Macharia expects the three to treat each other with civility to avert possible political grandstanding by rival camps. He cited the June 1 Madaraka Day celebrations in Kisumu that did not turn into a political podium.

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