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Kenya's Odinga to launch fifth bid for top job with president's backing

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Kenya's Odinga to launch fifth bid for top job with president's backing

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga

10th December 2021

By: Reuters

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Veteran Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga launches his fifth bid for the presidency on Friday, this time with the support of his former foe President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Voters in East Africa's biggest economy are due to go to the polls in August but Kenyatta will not be on the ballot due to a constitutional term limit of two, five-year terms.

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Odinga's last three runs for office in 2007, 2013 and 2017 were marked by high drama after he led his supporters to protest at the outcomes or challenge them in court, saying his victories were stolen. Deadly clashes followed the 2007 and 2017 votes.

But he made peace with Kenyatta in early 2018, effectively sidelining Kenyatta's deputy William Ruto, who has been vocal about his own presidential ambitions.

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Kenyatta and Odinga, 76, have been working together in parliament, where lawmakers from their parties have taken over key posts at the expense of those who support Ruto. Over the past year, the president has also urged people from his own populous Kikuyu ethnic group not to support Ruto.

Ruto belongs to a different ethnic group in the Rift Valley, which produced the nation's second president, Daniel Arap Moi, who ruled for 24 years from 1978.

Odinga and Ruto have already been battling it out on the campaign trail, especially in central Kenya, where Kikuyu votes are up for grabs. The community has produced the other three out of Kenya's four presidents since independence.

Ruto fought alongside Odinga in 2007, when police crackdowns on protesters, and clashes that turned into ethnic attacks, killed more than 1 000 people in post-election violence, eventually prompting a new constitution to devolve power. Ruto teamed up with Kenyatta in 2013.

Odinga, whose main power base is in his area of Western Kenya, has secured the support from many of the central region's business tycoons and ministers, while Ruto has the backing of most of the region's elected representatives.

Odinga has been touting his long experience in national leadership, including a stint as prime minister. He has also promised to stamp out widespread graft, give a monthly stipend of 6 000 shillings ($53) to the unemployed, and unite Kenya's ethnic groups.

Ruto has pledged to focus on the poor if elected, promoting a "hustler versus dynasty" message designed to highlight his appeal to the working class and dismiss Kenyatta and Odinga -- sons of the nation's first president and vice president, respectively.

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