Raila Odinga, the head of the Orange Democratic Movement, this week made his biggest moves yet to harness the votes he anticipates will be the reward of his rapprochement with President Uhuru Kenyatta.
He toured Central Kenya, met and received the approval of the powerful Mt Kenya Foundation,
received the President in the constituency he represented for decades, and met a number of
MPs from the region.
At the meeting with the Mt Kenya Foundation, Kieni MP Kanini Kega was perhaps the most
effusive in his praise for the former Prime Minister.
“You started climbing the mountain yesterday,” he told the ODM Party Leader. “Ordinarily it takes
seven days to climb the mountain. Yesterday you started and went halfway within one day. The next
time he does it, he will be at the peak.”
With the region having the largest number of votes, and without a natural successor to President Kenyatta, it has become a favourite hunting ground of the presidential candidates.
The region – the five counties in the former Central Province plus Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Embu counties – has more than six million voters and for the first time since 1992, there is nobody from the region running for President (Jimi Wanjigi wants ODM to hand him the ticket but faces an uphill task).
The absence of a candidate has turned the region into a vote-rich swing state, and securing a
substantial portion of the vote there would give a candidate significant headway.
Mr Odinga has plenty of reason to believe that he has made some good headway if not made it
halfway up the mountain as stated by Kanini Kega.
He appears to have the blessings of President Kenyatta, who has for long held his cards close
to his chest and refused to show support for any candidate. By letting officers in his administration
undermine the Deputy President and reportedly instructing MPs allied to him to back Mr Odinga,
he could be said to have finally shown his hand.
Away from the Central region, Mr Odinga’s other headache would probably come from the One
Kenya Alliance (OKA), which brings together Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka, Amani National
Congress’ Musalia Mudavadi, Kanu’s Gideon Moi and Ford-Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula.
Of that quartet, Mr Musyoka represents the biggest community whose leaders say they will
not back Mr Odinga at another election. He has walked away with about one million votes.
The rest have not expressly stated their preferences but each has sought to present
themselves as presidential candidates. Mr Moi has already been given Kanu’s ticket while Mr
Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula are banking on the
fact that their sub-tribes across Bungoma and
Trans Nzoia counties represent a substantial vote
The Mt Kenya Foundation was set to meet the OKA
team on Friday, but that meeting was called off
for unexplained reasons. The team was reportedly
uncomfortable with the suggestion made earlier
in the week that President Kenyatta and the Mt
Kenya Foundation would pressure them to back
Mr Odinga and they were unhappy that their
support was taken to be a foregone conclusion.
Given that the presidency has over the past
two decades has been secured through ethnic
alliances, it is inevitable that the frontrunner
would need to have gotten their tribal arithmetic
Even as he has the backing of the old hands, many
of them business tycoons, Mr Odinga’s potential
rivals have pointed out that the decisions will
eventually be made by the electorate in the
Central Kenya region, not tycoons and power
For the former premier, the question remains how
he will endear himself to the voters and what he’ll
do to regain the confidence of his former allies
from elsewhere across the country.