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The presidential campaign in Kenya ended on Saturday with two major meetings of the main candidates in the capital Nairobi. Three days before a high-stakes election, many challenges await the winner of the election called on Tuesday.

Three days before a high-stakes election, the two presidential favorites in Kenya, Raila Odinga and William Ruto, ended the campaign on Saturday August 6 with two mega-meetings in Nairobi. The candidates have thrown their last strength into battle, against the backdrop of inflation and past post-election violence.

Called to the polls on Tuesday, August 9, some 22.1 million voters will have to choose the successor to Uhuru Kenyatta, in office since 2013 and unable to run for a third term. They must also elect the deputies and local representatives of the country, considered to be the one where democracy is best rooted in East Africa.

To convince them and close a campaign dominated by the economic crisis and a certain apathy, the candidates invest the ground. Some roam the streets with sound systems screaming catchy slogans. The two presidential favorites are organizing two mega-meetings in Nairobi.

William Ruto, 55 and outgoing vice-president, chose the Nyayo stadium and its 30,000 seats. About fifteen kilometers away, his main rival Raila Odinga, 77 and former opposition leader now supported by power, tried to rock the 60,000-seat Kasarani stadium.

“We hope that the next president will improve the economy and the standard of living… We need jobs,” Evance Odawo, a 23-year-old tailor who attended Raila Odinga’s rally, told AFP.

William Ruto has made purchasing power his hobbyhorse. He presented himself as a spokesperson for the “resourceful” people, promising jobs when three out of ten people live in extreme poverty on less than 1.90 dollars a day in the country, according to the World Bank.

Raila Odinga took as a standard the fight against endemic corruption in the country, ranked 128th out of 180 countries, according to the NGO Transparency International.

Both had initially announced that they had chosen the same stadium for this last meeting, raising fears of tension.


“Struggling to make ends meet” in the face of “empty promises”

Inflation, which climbed to 8.3% in July, and the explosion in the prices of fuel and basic foodstuffs, however, seem to have dampened the electoral excitement this year.

“Economic conditions have been difficult for Kenyans who have barely had a chance to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said political analyst Zaynab Mohamed, in a note published Thursday by the British firm. Oxford Economics. “Many Kenyans are struggling to make ends meet and say they are not being fooled by politicians’ empty promises,” she said.

The economic stake could, according to certain experts, supplant the tribal vote. The latter has always been a key factor in Kenyan voting booths.

If the campaign has sometimes been virulent on social networks, incidents have been rare in the street. Some 150,000 officers must nevertheless be deployed on election day across the country to ensure security.

Kenya, “anchor point for democracy” in the region

In this country of 46 tribes, the elections gave rise to disputes, sometimes violent. In 2007-2008, more than 1,100 people died in political-ethnic clashes and hundreds of thousands were displaced.

The results in the country are also regularly challenged in court. In 2017, the Supreme Court canceled the election – a first in Africa – and called for a new ballot.

In recent weeks, there have been many calls for calm from civil society and the international community.

About fifteen embassies, including that of the United States, thus pleaded on Friday August 5, in a joint press release, for “free, fair and peaceful” elections in Kenya. Because this country is the “anchor point for stability, security and democracy, not only in the region, but also on the continent or throughout the world”.

The Electoral Commission (IEBC) has ensured that it has put in place the necessary safeguards to prevent fraud and manipulation and to deal with possible technical problems.

With AFP

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