Kenya polls: The four men seeking to succeed Uhuru Kenyatta

Sunday August 07 2022
Raila Odinga , William Ruto, David Mwaure Waihiga, George Wajackoyah

The four contestants in the August 9, 2022 presidential election. From left: Raila Odinga (Azimio), William Ruto (Kenya Kwanza), David Mwaure Waihiga (Agano Party) and George Wajackoyah (Roots Party). ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA | NMG


Kenya goes to the polls on Tuesday in a closely fought race to elect the fifth president since independence from Britain six decades ago. 

From an initial shortlist of 17, four candidates were cleared to run for president, the smallest number since multiparty democracy in the early 1990s.

The incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta has served two terms and cannot run again. 

Raila Odinga, 77, former Prime Minister

Azimio la Umoja Coalition Flag Bearer Raila Odinga in Siaya Town.

Azimio la Umoja Coalition flagbearer Raila Odinga. PHOTO | POOL

Born in 1945 in Maseno, Raila Odinga is the son of independent Kenya’s first Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. This will be his fifth stab at the presidency, having been on the ballot in 1997, 2007, 2013 and 2017.


Mr Odinga attended Kisumu Union and Maranda primary schools before joining Maranda High School. Mr Odinga is a graduate of the University of Leipzig in East Germany with a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering attained in 1970. In 1974 he was appointed group standards manager at the Kenya Bureau of Standards before his promotion to deputy director in 1978.

In his political journey, he was at the forefront of the push for constitutional and political reforms. President Daniel Moi’s police state detained him on numerous occasions. He would later flee to exile in Norway in 1991. He returned in February 1992 and joined the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy at the height of the clamour for multipartyism.

He was elected Lang’ata MP in 1992 on a Ford Kenya ticket. He would later ditch the party over leadership wrangles that followed the death of his father and joined the National Development Party, on whose ticket he first sought the presidency in the 1997, coming third after Moi and the late Mwai Kibaki.

He joined Moi’s government after a merger between KANU and NDP and was appointed minister and Kanu secretary-general. But in 2002, he led a mass walkout from Kanu after Moi endorsed Uhuru Kenyatta as his successor, to form the National Rainbow coalition with Mr Kibaki and others.

He fell out with Kibaki ran against contested in 2007 and was named Prime Minister in the grand coalition government that was formed after months of violence.

William Ruto, 55, Deputy President

William Ruto

Kenya Kwanza presidential candidate William Ruto. PHOTO | NMG

Dr William Ruto is the deputy president in the Jubilee administration and leader of the United Democratic Alliance, on whose ticket he is contesting the presidency under the Kenya Kwanza Alliance. 

Born in Surgoi, Uasin Gishu County in 1966, Dr Ruto began his education at Kamagut Primary before joining Wareng Secondary School and later Kapsabet Boys High School. He attended the University of Nairobi, where he graduated with a BSc in Botany and Zoology in 1990, before attaining MSc and  PhD in 2011 and in 2018 respectively. 

After serving as Eldoret North MP from 1997, Ruwas in 2013 Uhuru Kenyatta’s running mate. They won the election and he became the first deputy president under the 2010 constitution.

In October 2014, he served as acting President when Mr Kenyatta briefly relinquished power to attend to his criminal case at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Dr Ruto had in 2011 been named one of the six individuals who had sponsored the 2007/08 post-election violence. Like with other post-election violence cases at The Hague, his collapsed due to insufficient evidence blamed on witness tampering and failures by the ICC prosecutor’s office.

Ruto was a co-founder and member of the Youth for Kanu 1992 (YK92), a grouping that campaigned for the late President Daniel Moi in the 1992 General Election.

Dr Ruto served as an assistant minister in the Office of the President and then towards the 2002 elections which Kanu lost, he was promoted to Minister for Home Affairs. He also served as Minister for Agriculture and Higher Education in the grand coalition government from 2008.

George Wajackoyah, 63, lawyer

Wajackoyah in Nanyuki.

Roots Party presidential candidate George Wajackoyah. PHOTO | NMG

Aside from his pledges in reviving the economy and fighting corruption on the campaign trail, Prof George Wajackoyah will be remembered more for his radical proposals on legalisation of marijuana and harvesting of hyena testicles for sale, among other revolutionary ideas.

The immigration lawyer is the candidate of the Roots Party. A former Special Branch  Prof Wajackoyah is a law graduate of the University of Wolverhampton in the United Kingdom. He also holds masters degrees in law from the University of London, University of Warwick and the University of Baltimore, Advanced Diploma in French from the University of Burundi, among other academic qualifications.

He was born on October 24, 1959 in Matungu, Kakamega County in western Kenya. Prof Wajackoyah has had an interesting past. In 1991, he was forced into exile following his involvement in the investigation of the murder of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Robert Ouko.

At the time, he had been deployed then director of intelligence, James Kanyotu, to look into whether anyone in government had been involved in the matter. This involvement in the case would put him at loggerheads with some people in government, who accused him of foul play, leading to what he says was his detention and torture before he fled the country. He returned in 2011.  

The lawyer has promised to legalise the growing of marijuana for industrial and heritage purposes, serve as the Immigration minister as well as appoint a person of Asian ancestry to the Trade ministry if he is elected President. He also wants to revive local industries and promote indigenous agricultural products like coconut and mukombero.

Mwaure Waihiga, 60+, lawyer

Mwaure Waihiga

Agano Party Presidential candidate David Mwaure Waihiga. PHOTO | NMG

David Mwaure Waihiga of the Agano party is a lawyer and has vied in previous elections as an MP, Senator and governor. He also tried his hand in the contest for the presidency in the 2013 General Election. He however quit the race and vied for Lamu governor.

His most recent attempt at an elective position was in 2021, when he received the greenlight from his Agano party to contest the Nairobi governor’s seat after Mike Sonko was impeached. No election was held, though.

He had also tried in 2011 to contest for the Kamkunji MP’s seat after the High Court nullified the victory of Simon Mbugua. He lost, coming fourth in a race that was won by the Party of National Unity candidate Yusuf Hassan.

Mr Waihiga, an advocate with more than 35 years in practice, is a graduate of the University of Nairobi. He also has a masters degree in leadership from the International Leadership University and is currently studying for a PhD in leadership.

His law firm, Mwaure Waihiga & Co. Advocates, is based in Nairobi but has offices in Malindi and Lamu.

He describes himself as “a strongly committed born-again Christian and evangelical who is also an ordained minister, a reverend and an apostle.”

If elected, he would like to be remembered as the president who slew the dragon of corruption, bureaucracy, misadministration and tribalism.

He has also promised to recover all stolen wealth through corruption scandals.