With only three weeks to the General Election, it’s all systems go for Kenya’s two leading presidential candidates — President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga — who have designed multipronged campaign strategies meant to tighten their grip on established strongholds, at the same time making whistle-stop tours of counties that are likely to provide swing votes.
While the opposition National Super Alliance (Nasa) led by Mr Odinga has set up different campaign offices and departments in Nairobi and recruited two co-ordinators each for every county, constituency and ward, President Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party has put in place at least five campaign teams, charged with grassroots campaigns in its strongholds to assure voter turnout, while others led by the president and his deputy William Ruto have hit the road on countrywide campaigns to capture the hearts and minds of the unconverted.
Learning from the mistakes of the 2013 election, Nasa has engaged lawyers James Orengo, Paul Mwangi, Otiende Amolo (former ombudsman) and Dr Ben Sihaya (University of Nairobi international law lecturer ) to take charge of the legal department; Dr Adams Oloo (a political science lecturer at the University of Nairobi) to lead the political strategy team, and Salim Lone to head the communication team.
The teams are under strict instructions to keep to their territories and mandate and all media queries are to be directed to the right department.
Jubilee Party on the hand has split its campaign team into two — the presidential campaign team dubbed Team Uhuruto and the Raphael Tuju-led team that deals with party affairs at its headquarters in Nairobi.
Team Uhuruto is the nerve centre of President Kenyatta’s re-election campaign, charged with overall co-ordination of all campaign activities and itineraries, strategy development and resource mobilisation.
Members of Team Uhuruto are Solicitor General Njee Muturi, Jomo Gecaga (the president’s personal assistant) Gechaga, Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibichu, David Murathe, Winnie Guchu, the latter two being close allies of the president. Both Team Uhuruto and the Tuju team report directly to President Kenyatta.
The presidential campaign team also manages a campaign kitty where all the resources are channelled before being allocated to various activities, with firm instructions from President Kenyatta and his deputy. The kitty is managed by Mr Kibichu, who is in charge of resource mobilisation.
The five affiliate parties of Nasa are also maintaining separate secretariat and communications activities away from Nasa. “We are running a very disciplined campaign that does not allow interference from other departments. If we maintain this discipline, we are assured of victory in the first round,” said Dr Sihanya.
Mr Odinga has over the past few weeks concentrated on what the coalition is calling “protecting its votes” and sealing loopholes that could lead to rigging. The coalition is currently recruiting volunteers to join its “adopt a polling station” campaign, who will keep vigil at polling stations on voting day.
While Nasa has concentrated on sealing loopholes in the electoral process that could lead to rigging, Jubilee is leaning towards pushing messages of development achievement through flagship projects such as the free maternity, free education and infrastructure projects to woo voters and boost their numbers.
To achieve this Team Uhuruto is further divided into four teams, that traverse the country based on a campaign calendar drawn up by the presidential campaign team to ensure their teams reach every village and hamlet.
This is done through four lobby groups — Mbele Iko Sawa, Uhuro Express, Wamama na Uhuruto and Vijana Toklezea — working under the presidential campaign team. Their mandate is to mobilise supporters in different places around the country, and make sure the lobbies do not at any point share a platform.
The groups are also under firm instructions to make sure Jubilee makes inroads in opposition strongholds.
According to insiders, Jubilee is targeting swing vote counties of Kilifi, Mombasa, Kwale, Kisii, Nyamira, Kajiado, Narok and Trans Nzoia counties, where insiders say President Kenyatta is keen on getting more votes than he did in 2013.
However, the same sources also say that the opposition’s message of non-performance and lack of political goodwill to fight corruption by Jubilee has emerged as the party’s major headache in its quest to woo voters.
Nasa has designed a campaign strategy based on the need for change and the failings of the Jubilee government, especially issues affecting Kenyans such as food shortages and the high cost of living, corruption, unfulfilled promises, tribalism and employment exclusion.
The Nasa campaign is also pegged on continuously reminding Kenyans that Jubilee has only benefited two ethnic groups and that Nasa has formed an inclusive outfit that when they win will include all Kenyan, especially on employment.
According to Jubilee insiders, the different campaign teams and lobby groups are expected to take their activities a notch higher from July 25 until August 5, the last day of official campaigning.
President Kenyatta banned all foreign trips for Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries and parastatal chiefs as early as June, until after the election, and they were directed to pitch camp in their rural homes, where they are expected to play up the successes of government projects and Jubilee initiatives.