It was a clash of styles and strategy as Kenya’s leading presidential aspirants held their last election rallies in and around the capital, Nairobi, on Saturday.
With the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) stipulating August 6 as the deadline for an end to political campaigns, Raila Odinga made a last-minute plea at his afternoon rally to a crowd of supporters who almost filled two-thirds of the Moi Sports Centre in the suburb of Kasarani.
“There is no known fight to make Kenya a better place that has been led by the people on the other side,” he said in a prepared speech that was sandwiched by serenading from Tanzanian superstar Diamond Platnumz and the sound of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song from the speakers.
Odinga was referring to being jailed in the 1980s while fighting for the introduction of multiparty politics and his running mate Martha Karua’s reputation for having a hardline anti-corruption stance.
“We are running to make Kenya a first-class global democracy and economy,” the Azimio La Umoja coalition presidential candidate said in English. “We are running to build a Kenya of hope and opportunity.”
“Whose hands will dismantle the bandit economy of corruption,” Odinga, 77, asked. “In whose hands are your families safe?”
Elsewhere, Deputy President William Ruto kicked off proceedings by speaking from the open roof of an SUV at the popular market roundabout in Kirigiti, Kiambu county, later on Saturday, hemmed in on all sides by hundreds of supporters standing and dozens more on trucks.
Ruto, who has campaigned on dismantling dynasties, like the Kenyattas and the Odingas, went there after a rally at Nairobi’s Nyayo Stadium.
At Kirigiti, he again blamed his opponent for the failures in government saying, “Our agenda and plans were bungled the minute that guy [Odinga] came with the handshake.”
“Elect us so that we can solve this economic challenge and put money in your pockets,” he said, moonlighting as master of ceremonies by passing to MPs from Kiambu and Nairobi after his freestyle remarks almost entirely in Swahili.
“We have more than five million youths who are professionals but do not have jobs,” he added. “We have set aside 200 billion shillings [approximately $200m] every year towards creating jobs for youths.”