Five weeks to the general election, it is not difficult to discern how the stars are aligned for the August 9 presidential poll. The two foremost candidates – Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga – have since presented their manifestos, and the electoral campaign is set for the final dash to the finish.

Dr Ruto’s manifesto focused on the many concrete issues that have held Kenya and Kenyans back. They include the despair of the man and woman at the bottom of the country’s economic pyramid, high unemployment, poor agricultural productivity, a toxic business environment, unaffordable healthcare and the poor state of governance.

The plan resonated with the majority of Kenyans, if the conversations during and after Thursday’s launch are anything to go by. Dr Ruto’s style at the manifesto launch was the display of a man who understands Kenya, what has failed, how to rectify it and the path to transformation. The collegial part played by his colleagues in Kenya Kwanza Alliance communicated a team that understood the issues and worked in sync.

In comparison, the presentation of the Azimio manifesto was a drooling session. The monologue rose and fell on the mitumba (second-hand clothes) insult that the business dwells on products of the dead. An attempt to rewind the clock on the matter did not wash. Azimio’s foremost posterboy, former United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi, rubbed it in with “we love mitumba traders, but we hate mitumba” jibe.

A media interview for Mr Odinga and his running mate on Tuesday, two days before Kenya Kwanza’s manifesto presentation, was an attempt to rehash their policy statement. The effort fell flat on its face and there has been no evidence that the outing gave their agenda any impetus. 

Political somersaults
Three years ago, Dr Ruto pledged to change the conversation from the usual political mumbo jumbo and make the next election about economic issues. This has come true, but his competitors have shown, in word and deed, that they were not prepared for the enormous length and breadth of this endeavour.

No wonder they wasted four years propagating unhelpful constitutional changes under the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI). The endeavour came crashing down this year with a Return-to-sender stamp from three superior courts. 

The political campaign has also established a pattern that points to the strengths – or otherwise – of the two premier candidates. From 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga were keen to have all the political heavyweights on one side and isolate Dr Ruto. BBI was to be the silver bullet in this political game.

It was not lost on the handshake partners that Dr Ruto would cruise to easy victory if the opposition leaders stayed together or ran separately.

The plan flopped when Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford-Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula spurned the political backstabbing, opaqueness and the divisiveness that has underwritten the whole project since day one. They joined Dr Ruto to push the agenda of economic inclusion and justice for all. 

By Nation

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