Kenya presidential elections: election campaign as a lucrative business – Society


Bettina Ruehl

A new president will be elected in Kenya in a few days. Young people in particular have little confidence in politics. Fear of violence is growing.

Kenyan Diana Mwazi currently has what she considers a lucrative job: mobilizing people to rallies during an ongoing election campaign. He makes 500 Kenyan shillings at the party, which is the equivalent of about four euros, she told British broadcaster BBC.

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Participants mobilized by Mwazi receive the same amount. The new president, senate and parliament, local parliaments, governors and women’s representatives in the 47 local parliaments will be elected in the East African country on August 9. So there are some rallies ahead of Tuesday’s mammoth election day.

About 22 million people registered to vote. With a population of around 54 million people, this shows a rather moderate interest. Mwazi, 20, who lives in one of the largest slums in the Nairobi capital, also refuses to vote. “All politicians are liars,” he says.

Kenyan opposition leader and presidential candidate Raila Odinga (right) and Martha Karua kneel while praying.  Photo: REUTERS / Thomas Mukoya


Kenyan opposition leader and presidential candidate Raila Odinga (right) and Martha Karua kneel while praying.
© REUTERS / Thomas Mukoya

“During an election campaign, they flock to the slums and promise all kinds of things. But when you choose them, they don’t do anything, ”she told the BBC. Broken promises make her part-time job easier: there are many young people who do not have a permanent job and are happy to applaud the candidate for money.

Since Mwazi has many colleagues in the analog and digital space, the chances of applicants are difficult to quantify. Four men were nominated for the position of head of state. According to polls, the race between the two most promising candidates Raila Odinga (77) and the current Vice President William Ruto (55) is extremely fierce. This fuels fears of riots that have accompanied every vote in Kenya since the post-civil war-like violence of the late 2007 elections.

Members of the Kenyan Police Orchestra.  Photo: MARCO LONGARI / AFP


Members of the Kenyan Police Orchestra.

Outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta (60) can no longer run after two terms. Instead of endorsing his vice president Ruto, he advocates for the main opposition candidate, Odinga. He originally promised Ruto his support. A public dispute between the two men prompted the Kenyan bishops to call on them to guarantee a peaceful transition to power – regardless of who wins the presidential election.

What is remarkable about this year’s election campaign is that it does not only run along ethnic lines. Ruto focuses on a social theme: he introduces himself as a “trickster” or a man of people who have worked their way up. Despite his considerable fortune, he tries to distance himself from the former political elite of which he was a part for eight years, primarily as vice president. In turn, his competitor Odinga promises the poorest part of the society monthly social benefits of almost EUR 50.

Raila Odinga, former Kenyan prime minister and presidential candidate, attends a prayer service at the Kenyatta International Convention Center.  Photo: Mosa'ab Elshamy / AP / dpa


Raila Odinga, former Kenyan prime minister and presidential candidate, attends a prayer service at the Kenyatta International Convention Center.
© Mosa’ab Elshamy / AP / dpa

But the promise is unlikely to be kept. Kenya is mired in a deep debt crisis that is the legacy of the Kenyatta and Ruto governments. In return for further support, the International Monetary Fund is demanding tough austerity measures. If it recedes, the crisis threatens to worsen.

The fact that there is also talk of women’s chances is due to the move of the opposition candidate Odinga. He wants former Justice Minister Marta Karua (64) to become his vice president if he wins the election. However, Odinga, Luo, was not interested in women, but in the votes of the Kikuyu ethnic group to which the acclaimed Karua lawyer belongs. With around a third of the population, Kikuyu, to which Kenyatta belongs, is the largest ethnic group in Kenya. Although they have almost six million votes, they do not put forward their own candidates.

Together with businessman Rigathi Gachagua (57), accused of money laundering and embezzlement, Ruto appointed a member of Kikuyu as his vice president. To catch up on the gender gap, Ruto promised that if he won, ten of the maximum 22 ministerial positions foreseen in the constitution would be awarded to women.

With spending estimated at a total of one billion dollars, the election campaign is considered to be the most expensive in Kenya’s history. Meanwhile, the population suffers from extremely high living costs.

You meet a country that is now struggling with severe drought following a massive locust plague and the economic aftermath of the Crown Pandemic. Campaign Assistant Mwazi therefore finds the election campaign useful. The extra income helps her pay the bills, at least temporarily. (ep)

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