After dust settles on presidential running mates, manifestos are next as campaigns begin

May 27, 2022 - Reading Time: 3 minutes - By John Ngirachu

Rigathi Gachagua, William Ruto’s running mate, is reported to have caused disquiet within the Deputy President’s campaign team over a series of tactless remarks he has made since his appointment. 

The latest was made on Inooro FM earlier this week, where he suggested that a Ruto administration would break up Safaricom, even as the thrust of his argument was that it would make more sense to give out loans to the people than to bail out Kenya Airways. 

What followed demonstrates the agility and speed with which political propaganda can be spread in the digital age. Within hours, the recording of the Mathira MP’s remarks had been edited and was going viral, aided in no small part by propagandists from Azimio, the banner under which Raila Odinga is seeking the presidency. There are now highlight reels of similar careless remarks Mr Gachagua has made, many of them on vernacular media. 

Part of the propaganda was a fake statement attributed to Safaricom over the matter. 

If the running mates of the leading candidates were to be assessed from their activities and statements this week, Mr Gachagua would be judged to have come out needing to improve. 

Martha Karua appears to have struck the better chord and has since her appointment appeared on the cover of the Daily Nation under positive headlines: Strength of a Woman and The Martha Effect. 

She was surprised when Dr Ruto asked her to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast, but promptly read the room and delivered a clean message – Dr Ruto was later trolled for quoting the wrong Bible verse. 

That faux pas from Mr Gachagua came as he tried to explain the bottom-up economic model that the Ruto team has been promising to implement if it takes over.  The good thing for Dr Ruto’s team is that so far, Mr Odinga has not had a similar single message on what his economic model or approach would be. He has coined the word BabaCare for his approach, the most significant feature of which would be a monthly Sh6,000 stipend for poor households. 

The electoral commission is now expected to publish the names of all candidates, and the next stage for the candidates would be the launch of their manifestoes. Dr Ruto appears to have made more progress in this regard as it is known that he has a team working in the background.  

As that happens, it is important to note the use of technology and social media to rapidly spread attack propaganda by the candidates and their teams, with vernacular radio considered a key channel for reaching the masses. 

Mounting pressure on IEBC as focus turns to management of August 9 elections

The first presidential election of 2017 was annulled because of a failure by the electoral commission to adhere to the process, and that’s where the focus is returning. 

This week, Martha Karua asked her friends in civil society groups to turn their spotlight on the electoral commission and find out the extent to which the gaps identified by the Supreme Court have been filled. 

The electoral commission has pushed through some changes in the Elections Act, some in 2017 as the re-run was being arranged and others as recently as this year, when the headlines focused on the changes to ease the formation of coalitions. 

Civil society groups and political parties will have noted the reticence of the electoral commission and the paucity of information coming from Anniversary Towers. While the commission has stuck to the statutory timelines on the electoral process, it is behind its own Elections Operation Plan. It has, however, recently sprang into action and has held meetings with the parties and presidential candidates. 

Still, the public remains in the dark about the election management systems and the procurement of the company to print ballot papers. There are already conversations about 3G coverage across the country as well as unjustified allegations by Kenya Kwanza that the Government intends to interfere in the elections in Raila Odinga’s favour. These sentiments are likely to increase in volume and intensity as the elections draw closer, and the electoral commission will certainly feel more pressure.  

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