Kenya’s President Backs Former Arch-Rival In Elections

File photo of Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) shakes hands with the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition opposition leader Raila Odinga after a news conference on March 9, 2018, at Harambee house office in Nairobi. PHOTO: SIMON MAINA / AFP


Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday endorsed his former arch-rival for the country’s top job, weeks after their parties joined forces ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections in August.

“We have chosen Raila Odinga without any opposition to be the fifth president of Kenya,” Kenyatta told a cheering crowd numbering thousands in the capital Nairobi.

The announcement brings together two of Kenya’s top political dynasties, who have a long history of opposing each other at the ballot box.

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But in 2018, Kenyatta and Odinga stunned the country when they shook hands and declared a truce after post-election violence in 2017 left dozens of people dead.

Last month, Kenyatta’s Jubilee party announced that it would join the Azimio la Umoja (Quest for Unity) coalition headed by Odinga.

On Saturday, Kenyatta declared his backing for the veteran opposition leader, saying: “We don’t have any doubt that we have a team captain in Raila Amolo Odinga.”

Odinga, 77, responded, saying that the pair’s journey from bitter electoral rivals to political partners “has been the most unlikely in the history of our country.”

“I accept the nomination with absolute gratitude and dedication to our people,” he added.

The announcement came after Kenyatta’s previously anointed successor William Ruto, who also intends to contest the presidential election, was sacked from Jubilee.

Ruto, 54, was initially anointed by Kenyatta as his successor but found himself marginalised after the 2018 pact between the president and his former foe.

Ruto has positioned himself as a leader looking to upend the status quo and stand up for the “hustlers” trying to survive in a country ruled by “dynasties” — a reference to the Kenyatta and Odinga families which have dominated politics for decades.


– Election violence –

The East African powerhouse has traditionally been ruled by presidents from the dominant Kikuyu tribe like Kenyatta or the Kalenjin tribe like Ruto.

This year’s contest is shaping up to be a two-horse race between Ruto and Odinga, who belong to the Luo tribe.

A former political prisoner and prime minister, Odinga has secured the support of at least 26 parties that are now part of the Azimio la Umoja coalition.

But his image as a fiery anti-establishment leader has taken a knock following “the handshake” with Kenyatta.

The duo has unsuccessfully tried to introduce sweeping constitutional changes, claiming that the reforms would help to end repeated cycles of election violence.

More than 1,100 Kenyans lost their lives in 2007 when a disputed election result sparked tribal violence.

The reforms — popularly known as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI)– proposed expanding the executive and parliament to more evenly divide the spoils of victory.

But it was seen by critics as a way to enable Kenyatta — a two-term president who cannot run for a third — to remain in power by establishing the post of prime minister.

The government has appealed a court ruling that rejected the proposals and said Kenyatta could even be sued in a civil court for launching the process.


Biden To Host Kenyan President Kenyatta 

File photo: US President Joe Biden speaks on the American Jobs Plan, following a tour of Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Virginia on May 3, 2021. MANDEL NGAN / AFP


Joe Biden will welcome Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday, in the first visit by an African leader to the White House during his presidency.

The summit will be part of “Biden’s commitment to the US partnership with Africa based on principles of mutual respect and equality,” a White House statement said Tuesday.

It said Biden and Kenyatta would discuss “the need to bring transparency and accountability to domestic and international financial systems,” amid a push by the Biden administration to fight both corruption and inequities overseas.

The two will also “discuss efforts to defend democracy and human rights, advance peace and security, accelerate economic growth and tackle climate change,” the White House said.

Biden has vowed to promote democracy overseas. Once-stable Kenya saw deadly political violence after 2017 elections, but Kenyatta has since made up with his former rival Raila Odinga.

Biden took office vowing a new commitment to Africa after the disinterest of his predecessor Donald Trump, who was the first president in decades not to visit sub-Saharan Africa.

But Biden has only gone on one international trip and has trimmed the number of visitors at the White House amid continued precautions against Covid-19.

Much of the Biden administration’s attention in Africa has turned to Ethiopia, a longtime US ally that has disappointed Washington with a nearly year-old offensive in the Tigray region.

Ethiopia launched the operation late last year in response to attacks on an army camp by the then ruling party in Tigray, where UN officials say that hundreds of thousands are facing severe hunger.

Kenyatta, speaking Tuesday after a UN Security Council meeting on Ethiopia, called for “an immediate cessation of hostilities by both sides.”

“We do not believe that there is a military solution, and we need to urgently have all parties coming across the table in order for us to be able to ensure that all humanitarian corridors are actually opened,” he told reporters.

“We will continue to push — not just as Kenya, as a neighbor and a member of the Security Council but also through the African Union.”


Kenya To Ease Lockdown, Resume International Flights

File: Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta gives a speech at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC on February 5, 2020. Eric BARADAT / AFP.


Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday announced a “phased reopening” of the country, with the resumption of international flights from August 1 as well as the lifting of internal travel restrictions.

The move comes as pressure mounts to kickstart the country’s ailing economy after nearly four months of coronavirus restrictions that have devastated key industries such as tourism.

Kenyatta said in a televised address that “international air travel into and out of the territory of Kenya shall resume effective 1 August 2020.”

He also announced that a ban on movement in and out of the capital Nairobi, the port city of Mombasa and northeastern Mandera, would be lifted from July 15.

However, a curfew from 9pm to 4am will remain in place for another 30 days.

Kenya has recorded just over 8,000 cases of the virus and 164 deaths — the highest official figures in East Africa — and has seen a steep increase in numbers in recent weeks, with a fatality rate of 2.09 percent.

Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe on Sunday warned “our healthcare facilities risk being overwhelmed”.

Fewer than 200,000 people have been tested in the population of 47 million people.

– Reopening ‘conditional’ –

In June, Kenyatta had said that before lifting restrictions, the country would need to have contained infections with numbers headed downwards; the health care system must be prepared to deal with a surge in infections; and the capacity for surveillance and contact tracing must be in place.

He said Monday that experts looking at those conditions determined “we have not met the irreducible minimum 100%”.

However, they agreed “we have reached a reasonable level of preparedness across the country to allow us to reopen,” he said.

Kenyatta also warned the reopening was “conditional”.

“Any trends that signal a worsening of the pandemic, we will have no choice but to return to the lockdown,” he said.

Kenyatta also announced that places of worship will be allowed to reopen, but with a maximum of 100 people attending.

He urged citizens to continue to implement social distancing, and to avoid travel as much as possible, asking them to, “exercise cautious optimism and avoid reckless abandon.”

Like many nations in East Africa, Kenya took swift action to combat the coronavirus, closing its borders on March 25 when it had only 25 cases, shutting schools and imposing a curfew while advising people to work from home.

The restrictions were a blow to millions of poor in the city who live hand to mouth.

“Jobs have been lost, businesses have closed and livelihoods endangered. And this is the sorry state of things the world over,” said Kenyatta.

In recent weeks Nairobi has become busier, with traffic jams returning to the streets of the capital and restaurants re-opening.

Masks are obligatory in the country, but Kagwe has warned of increasing laxity which he said could “spell disaster in coming days”.

“We have observed that many of our people are going about their everyday activities as if we are in normal times,” he said Sunday, citing overloaded public transport and house parties.


Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum 2018

The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship forum 2018 is currently taking place with the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, and his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyata, among those participating.

The forum which attracts young entrepreneurs from across the globe also has the founder of the foundation, Tony Elumelu, in attendance.

Kenyatta And Odinga Meet, Vow To Resolve Differences


Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) shakes hands with the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition opposition leader Raila Odinga after a news conference on March 9, 2018 at Harambee house office in Nairobi.  SIMON MAINA / AFP


President Uhuru Kenyatta met opposition leader Raila Odinga in public on Friday for the first time since last year’s hotly-disputed elections, with the pair promising to heal the country’s divisions.

The surprise meeting at Kenyatta’s downtown office on Friday ended with the symbolic appearance of the two men standing side-by-side to deliver a joint statement.

Calling one another “brother,” they announced a plan for “a programme” to overcome deep and long-standing ethnic and political divides, although they provided few details of what it might involve.

“We have come to a common understanding, an understanding that this country of Kenya is greater than any one individual, and that for this country to come together leaders must come together,” Kenyatta said.

Odinga expressed similar sentiments.

“Throughout our independence history, we have had doubts on how we have conducted our affairs in the face of growing divide along ethnic, religious and political lines. Regrettably, we have responded to our challenges by mostly running away from them,” said Odinga, who spoke first.

“The time has come for us to confront and resolve our differences.”

Friday’s meeting came hours before the arrival of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as part of his first Africa tour. The US has been urging direct talks between Kenyatta and Odinga to resolve the political strife.

Tillerson later described the meeting as “a positive step”.

“While we know addressing Kenya’s ethnic and political divisions will take some time and effort, today both of these men showed great leadership in coming together and in the agreement they signed,” he told a press conference in Nairobi after meeting with Kenyatta.

But Tillerson also warned against democratic backsliding, urging the government to, “correct certain actions, like shutting down TV stations and threatening the independence of the courts.”

Last year’s fraught election season saw one presidential poll annulled by the courts and the re-run boycotted by the opposition.

While political violence did not come close to that which followed the 2007 vote — when over 1,100 lives were lost — the disputed elections led to the deaths of over 100 people, most of them shot by police.

On January 10, European Union election monitors said the flawed poll had “weakened” the country’s democracy.

“Kenyans went from high hopes for these elections to many disappointments and confrontations. Kenya remains deeply divided,” EU chief observer Marietje Schaake, a Dutch member of the European parliament, told AFP as the critical report was launched.


Kenyatta Vows To Unite Kenya After Divisive Poll

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta. Photo: SIMON MAINA / AFP

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday vowed to be the leader of all Kenyans and work to unite the country after a bruising and drawn out election process that ended with his swearing-in.

“I will devote my time and energy to build bridges, to unite and bring prosperity,” he said as he started his second term faced with a large portion of the population that rejects his election outright.

Kenyatta’s calls for unity echo those he made throughout an election campaign in which he also launched searing attacks on the judiciary and opposition.

However the message is sorely needed in Kenya, as more than four months of political upheaval have left the nation more divided than ever.

An election on August 8, won by Kenyatta, was annulled in a historic decision by the Supreme Court, which ordered a re-run on October 26.

Kenyatta won that poll with 98 percent, as his rival Raila Odinga boycotted the vote, vowing it would not be free or fair.

“The election we have just concluded is probably one of the longest ever held in our continent’s history,” said Kenyatta.

He declared that his inauguration — on the 123rd day since the country first went to vote — marked “the end, and I repeat the end, of our electoral process”.

“It has been a trying time but once again Kenyans have shown their resilience in calming the passions that accompany political competition.”

Kenyatta urged all leaders to serve the nation regardless of political affiliation, and said he would dedicate all his energy to building “unity and nationhood”.

“Instead of division, I know that we can build a Kenya which prospers by rewarding hard work, and leaving no one behind,” he said.

He laid out his government’s vision for the next five years, including 100-percent universal healthcare coverage and the creation of jobs by focusing on the manufacturing sector.

As the country emerges from a prolonged drought, he vowed to invest in water towers and river ecosystems and re-engineer the agricultural sector in order to cope with future dry spells.

Kenyatta announced that any African wishing to visit Kenya would be able to receive a visa at any port of entry while members of the East African Community (EAC) could work, do business and live in Kenya with only their identity card.

The EAC includes war-torn South Sudan and troubled Burundi, but not Somalia.

Kenyatta urged the nation to focus on building the economy rather than dwell on divisive politics.

“No one eats politics. For the last 50 years, we have watched as the Asian economies have risen to wealth, while much of Africa has stagnated. The difference is that they used politics to create vibrant economies for their people,” he said.

“In our case, we have pursued politics as an end in itself, rather than as a means to economic prosperity. This must end.”


Kenya Crisis Deepens As Kenyatta Leads in Poll

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta gestures as he speaks during a political rally in Nairobi, on October 23, 2017, ahead of the repeat elections. SIMON MAINA / AFP

Kenya was stuck in a dangerous limbo on Saturday as President Uhuru Kenyatta took an unassailable lead in a disputed poll that has sparked violent protests that have claimed nine lives.

Kenyatta was leading with over 90 percent of vote compared to less than one percent for his rival Raila Odinga, who boycotted the repeat election, according to a tally by the Daily Nation media group of unofficial results from most constituencies.

However, turnout appears headed for a record low of around 35 percent, tarnishing the credibility of an election that has deeply polarised east Africa’s economic powerhouse.

Violent protests have rocked Odinga’s strongholds in the west of the country and flashpoint Nairobi slums, with the death of a man in Homa Bay on Friday taking the death toll since election day to nine. Scores have also been wounded, many by police bullets.

Local police chief Mauris Tum said a gang of youths had stormed the home of a local ruling party lawmaker and police responded, leaving one “fatally wounded”.

In Nairobi’s poor Kawangware neighbourhood, members of Kenyatta’s Kikuyu tribe stood over the blackened remains of their houses and shops after a night of clashes with Odinga supporters.

Both sides were armed with machetes, knives, clubs and rocks. Police said officers shot one man dead but residents claim others also died or were maimed in the clashes.

What started the violence is disputed, with each side blaming the other, but both acknowledge the ethnic logic of what followed.

“We were targeted because this is a Kikuyu place,” said Geoffrey Mbithi, a 42-year-old hotelier whose three-room guesthouse is now a pile of bent and blackened corrugated tin sheets.

“This is about tribalism.”

Politics in Kenya is divided along ethnic lines, and the Kikuyu — the largest grouping — have long been accused of holding a monopoly on power and resources.

– ‘Tragic consequences’ –

At least 49 people have now died since a first election on August 8 in Kenya’s worst crisis since a 2007 vote sparked months of politically-driven ethnic violence that left 1,100 people dead.

While the dynamics of 2017’s political crisis are very different, the memory of the bloodshed a decade ago is never far away.

“From past experience, sporadic incidents of violence quickly burst into a conflagration with tragic consequences. We are likely to go this direction unless quick action is taken,” wrote the Daily Nation in an editorial.

The presidential re-run was ordered by the Supreme Court after it overturned Kenyatta’s August 8 victory over “irregularities” in the transmission of votes.

But two weeks before the new elections, Odinga pulled out, calling for a boycott on the grounds that the electoral commission hadn’t made the necessary changes to ensure a free and fair vote in a call that was widely observed.

Observers expect further legal challenges over the re-run.

– ‘We don’t want elections’ –

In some areas, mostly in the western Nyanza region where the majority of deaths have occurred, the election could not take place at all as opposition supporters blocked hundreds of polling stations from opening on Thursday.

Plans to restage voting in the region on Saturday were again delayed after election chief Wafula Chebukati said he feared for the safety of his staff.

He said a date for the vote there would be announced in the coming days.

According to the Supreme Court, the election re-run must be completed by October 31.

In Kisumu, Kenya’s third largest city where three people died on polling day, opposition supporters were still on alert to block plans to deploy election material, although shops opened and transport was circulating.

At a main roundabout in the city, someone had hung up a dead cat. In recent days, ahead of each announcement, Odinga promises to announce his next moves on how to “slay the cat”.

Richard Ogilo, 24, pointed to the carcass and said: “Look there is a member of IEBC (election board) at this roundabout. This is Wafula Chebukati. Let him know that we do not want elections.”

While the Supreme Court ruling was hailed as a chance to deepen democracy, the acrimonious bickering between Odinga and Kenyatta — whose fathers were rivals before them — has sharply divided a country where politics is already polarised along tribal lines.

“Leaders must now begin preaching the message of reconciliation and co-existence. Elections have deeply divided the people and we need to repair the fractures,” said the Daily Nation editorial.

Odinga has vowed a campaign of “civil disobedience” and is demanding another new election be held within 90 days.


Kenyan Opposition Threatens To Boycott Rerun, Says IEBC Can’t Protect Votes

File photo: Raila Odinga

Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga said on Sunday his coalition would only go to the election when they are sure the electoral commission will not take a side, adding that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) cannot protect their votes.

The Supreme Court ruled on Friday (September 1) that the election board had committed irregularities that rendered the August 8 vote invalid and overturned incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory, which had been by a margin of 1.4 million votes.

Odinga, who also contested the presidency in 2007 and 2013, repeated his statement after Friday’s court ruling that the opposition would not participate in the re-run of the election without changes to the election commission. On Friday he called for the commission to resign and face criminal prosecution.

“We have said that you cannot force Kenyans to go to the polls that is being supervised by thieves, we will not accept. We cannot put our goats in a cackle of hyenas, a hyena cannot shepherd goats and they (Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission) cannot protect our votes,” Odinga said,

“We will only go to the elections when we are sure that the ones organizing the elections are people who will not side with one side or the other.”

Kenyatta insists the poll should be re-run with the current electoral board, while the opposition wants the board dismissed.

Odinga also called on Kenyatta and his supporters to respect the judiciary.

He said, “Why is it that this time they don’t want to accept the ruling from the courts? Why don’t they want to accept? Why are they now insulting the judiciary? They are the ones who told us that If we had issues to go to the courts. Did we go to the courts? Did we give our evidence? Were the courts satisfied? Now what is the issue?”

Kenyatta Ready For Election, Asks Chief Justice Not To Interfere

Kenyatta Ready For Election, Asks Chief Justice Not To Interfere
File photo

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday said he and his party are ready for election as ordered by the Supreme Court.

The President, however, cautioned the Chief Justice not to interfere with the electoral body so the polls could be conducted as soon as possible.

Kenyatta also repeated his message from Friday that he would respect the court’s ruling.

“Let me tell him; we’ve been here before, they chased out the old IEBC. If you have accepted all the rest of the results, let us accept the ruling,” he said.

“(Chief Justice David) Maraga, don’t interfere and don’t think because our friends shout and we keep quite that we are scared of you. No, we are not.

“You’ve done your ruling, we have respected it; let IEBC do their job, let them declare the date and Raila (Odinga) let us meet at the ballot.”

It is the second time since the apex court’s ruling that Kenyatta issued a critical comment in public about the judiciary.

On Friday, during an impromptu rally in Nairobi, the President criticised the court for ignoring the will of the people and dismissed the chief justice’s colleagues as “wakora” (crooks).

Elsewhere, Chief Justice Maraga had said the Supreme Court’s verdict was backed by four of the six judges and declared Kenyatta’s victory “invalid, null and void”.


Kenya’s Election Board Must Resign, Face Prosecution – Odinga

File photo: Raila Odinga

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga said on Friday the election commission should resign and some officials should face criminal prosecution after the Supreme Court ruled that irregularities nullified last month’s presidential election.

Odinga held a press conference at his party headquarters hours after the court ordered a new poll within 60 days, an unprecedented move in Africa where governments are often seen holding sway over judges.

Chief Justice David Maraga announced the Supreme Court’s verdict that was backed by four of the six judges, saying the declaration of Kenyatta’s victory was “invalid, null and void”. Details of the ruling will be released within 21 days.

Judges said they found no misconduct by Kenyatta but said the election board “failed, neglected or refused to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the constitution.”

Kenya’s judiciary went through sweeping changes after 2007 election violence in a bid to restore confidence the legal system. Friday’s ruling is likely to galvanise pro-democracy campaigners across Africa, where many complain their judiciaries simply rubber stamp presidential rule.


Kenyatta Calls For Calm After Supreme Court Nullifies Election Win

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta called for calm and respect after a Supreme Court ruling on Friday (September 1) nullified his election and ordered a new poll within 60 days.

Kenyatta made the appeal for peace to cheering supporters in the Kenyan capital Nairobi and after a televised address in the State House.

“We have said and because we believe in peace and because we believe we have laws, let them say what they want to say but, I ask you, have we accepted? We have accepted. Right? And we are urging for peace,” he said.

File photo: Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta

The decision to cancel the result sets up a new race for the presidency between Kenyatta, 55, and veteran opponent Raila Odinga, 72. Experts said the judgement would reverberate across a continent that is slowly moving away from a history of strongmen towards democracy.

Kenya, a U.S. ally in the fight against Islamists and East Africa’s biggest economy, is a trade gateway for the region. But it has a history of disputed votes, which can send shockwaves through the region and beyond.


Kenyatta Urges Opposition To Challenge Election Results In Court

Kenyatta Urges Opposition To Challenge Election Results In Court

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday reiterated an appeal for the opposition to shun violence and take any complaints to court.

President Kenyatta made the appeal as opposition leader Raila Odinga, who refused to concede defeat after the country’s presidential election, claimed the whole vote had been rigged.

He said, “To our friends who are yet to accept the outcome, we continue to appeal to them that we have extended our arm and a hand of peace and a hand of friendship and for them to use whatever legal mechanism that has been created by our wonderful Constitution to express their dissatisfaction.”

“But I truly believe there is no single Kenyan anywhere who wants to continue to see violence, looting, and demonstrations that end up destroying property. But if like I said, there are those who are aggrieved and feel that they are not willing to accept, there are also constitution laid down procedures that they can use to express their dissatisfaction while allowing the many millions of Kenyans who wish to continue with their normal lives to do so.”

Kenya’s election commission had on Friday declared Kenyatta the winner of the election by 1.4 million votes.

International observers had also noted that the August 8 vote was largely fair and a parallel tally by domestic monitors supported the outcome.

Following some protests in parts of Nairobi and Kisumu where Odinga has strong support, the Kenya Red Cross on Monday said it had treated 177 people – of whom 108 sustained serious injuries since the election.

Kenyatta also urged the police to exercise restraint after a Kenyan human rights group alleged that 24 people had been shot dead by police since Election Day, but the government put the number of dead at 10.

On Sunday, Odinga had called for a strike to support his claim to the presidency and accused the ruling party of “spilling the blood of innocent people” as he brushed off growing pressure to concede election defeat.

Kenyans, however, re-opened their shops and returned to work on Monday morning as they largely ignored the demands for demonstrations against Kenyatta’s re-election and against the killing of protesters.