A Veteran Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga has announced that he will run for president in next August’s elections.
The announcement on Friday at a Nairobi stadium packed with political bigwigs and thousands of supporters followed speculation that Odinga who was the face of Kenya’s opposition for decades – had struck a power-sharing deal with Kenyatta to secure his backing for the top job.
“I do hereby accept to present myself as a presidential candidate for the presidential elections of the 9th of August 2022,” the AFP news agency quotes him as telling cheering supporters at a Nairobi stadium.
“I am in this race to mould one indivisible nation,” the 76-year-old added.
Odinga is a popular politician despite having lost presidential races on four previous occasions – 1997, 2007, 2013 and 2017. The most recent poll saw him run against the outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta.
But his fiery anti-establishment image took a knock in March 2018 when he stunned the country by clasping hands with Kenyatta just months after deadly post-election clashes.
The truce, known universally as “the handshake”, sparked speculation the two men had made a pact that would see Odinga succeed Kenyatta, a two-term president who cannot run a third time.
Odinga’s main rival for the top job is likely to be the current Deputy President, William Ruto. The current president will be constitutionally barred from running as he will have served two terms.
Ruto has presented himself as being on the side of the “hustlers” against the “dynasties”.
Hustlers refer to those – especially young people – who struggle to make ends meet in an economy that is said to be no longer working for them.
The word dynasties, on the other hand, is a moniker to describe wealthy families, like the Kenyattas and Odingas, who are seen to have dominated politics – and the economy – since independence from the UK in 1963.
Kenya has traditionally been ruled by presidents who belong to either the Kikuyu tribe – like Kenyatta – or the Kalenjin tribe, like Ruto.
The potential victory of Odinga, a Luo, would mark a departure for the country, which has 44 tribes.
Earlier this week, the Mount Kenya Federation, one of the country’s most powerful and wealthy Kikuyu lobbies, announced their support for Odinga, while Kenyatta has repeatedly said that the next president will be “neither Kikuyu nor Kalenjin”.
More than 1,100 Kenyans lost their lives in 2007 when a disputed election result sparked widespread politically-motivated tribal violence.
Featured Image: Raila Odinga arriving at the rally in Nairobi [Photo Reuters]