Two-horse race takes shape in Kenya as Kalonzo weighs options

Sunday March 13 2022
Kenyan politician Kalonzo Musyoka.

Kenyan politician Kalonzo Musyoka has set conditions before joining Azimio La Umoja coalition. PHOTO | FILE


Former Kenyan vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka has this past week come under pressure to choose a side as the coalition building for the country’s August 9 elections enters the homestretch.

The election is shaping up to be a two-horse race between Deputy President William Ruto and former prime minister Raila Odinga.

The two front runners to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta will in the next four days pick up endorsements from their respective coalitions or parties.

Mr Odinga’s Azimio La Umoja Movement, a coalition bringing together his ODM party, the ruling Jubilee Party and more than 10 small parties, kicks off the vibrant political week on Saturday with its national delegates conference at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre and a public rally at Jacaranda Grounds in Nairobi.

No support

President Kenyatta, who is backing his former rival to succeed him, is expected to make an appearance at the two events.


On Tuesday, Deputy President Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) will hold a similar meeting to endorse his presidential bid through the Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

Political parties and coalitions have up to early May to formally nominate their presidential candidates, according to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s election preparation calendar.

Although Mr Ruto and Mr Odinga’s candidatures are a foregone conclusion, their campaign strategists still see winning the support of Mr Musyoka increasing their chances of a decisive victory in an election some political analysts say could go to a run-off.

Mr Musyoka, currently President Kenyatta’s Special Envoy to South Sudan, is a veteran of peace efforts in the region, having served as Foreign minister, among other Cabinet roles, under the administrations of former presidents Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki.

The 68-year-old is also the most experienced among the current crop of Kenyan politicians with presidential ambitions, having been first elected to Parliament back in 1985.

Wiper Democratic Movement, the party Mr Musyoka leads, has a strong base in the Lower Eastern region, where a majority of its 19 elected Members of Parliament come from, and pockets of support in Nairobi and the Coast.

In 2007, he made a credible presidential run, emerging third with 8.91 percent of the votes behind then President Kibaki, the winner, and Mr Odinga.

But his tendency to flip flop or blow hot and cold on major decisions has also made him one of the most caricatured politicians in the Kenyan media.

A popular portrayal of him in newspaper cartoons is that of a watermelon – green on the outside and red on the inside.