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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
David Herbling

The four men vying to win Kenya’s presidential election

The biggest challenge for the four men competing to succeed Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta is to ease the cost of living crisis engulfing East Africa’s biggest economy.

Inflation is accelerating at the fastest pace in five years, with prices of cooking oil and wheat flour surging. Kenyatta’s government has capped the price of corn flour — used to make ugali, a stiff porridge and staple food for most Kenyans. Keeping households costs in control through subsidies is the main plank for most candidates.

Kenyans will vote on Tuesday. Here’s a look at the candidates, beginning with the two frontrunners.

—Raila Odinga, 77, former prime minister

Odinga, son of Kenya’s first vice president, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, has the backing of his former rival President Kenyatta. This election is his fifth attempt at the presidency.

A mechanical engineer, who studied in Germany, Odinga plans to restructure the nation’s commercial debt to ease the burden of repayments, which take up more than half of Kenya’s tax collections every year.

Odinga, known as Baba, has promised to transfer 6,000 shillings ($50) every month to poor households. He’s also pledged universal health care and free education from early childhood to tertiary level.

The politician lost to Kenyatta, son of the nation’s founding president, in the 2013 elections. In 2018, Kenyatta and Odinga agreed a truce that resulted in the incumbent supporting Odinga’s bid for presidency over his own deputy.

Odinga is the founder of East African Spectre, a company that specializes in the manufacture of liquid petroleum gas cylinders.

—William Ruto, 55, deputy president

Ruto calls himself a “hustler,” touting his rags-to-riches story. The deputy president, who says he used to sell live chickens on the side of a highway, now owns one of the biggest poultry farms in the country. His business empire includes hospitality and real estate.

He entered politics in his 20s as a campaigner for former President Daniel Moi and later secured a seat in the National Assembly in 1997. Ruto backed Kenyatta during his first presidential run in 2002, where he lost to an opposition coalition headed by Mwai Kibaki, who was backed by Odinga.

Later, Ruto teamed up with Odinga in 2007 to dislodge Kibaki, who then had the backing of Kenyatta. The Ruto and Kenyatta alliance won two consecutive elections in 2013 and 2017, before the truce between Kenyatta and Odinga the following year fractured the ruling Jubilee Party and isolated Ruto. It also resulted in Kenyatta reneging on a promise to back Ruto at the end of his two terms.

Ruto, who completed his doctorate in plant ecology, is campaigning on what he calls a “bottom-up economic model” that seeks to channel government funds into sectors that have the potential to generate the most jobs.

He has pledged to invest at least 500 billion shillings in farming, which employs more than 40% of the labor force, and in small businesses. Unlike Odinga, Ruto has promised not to revamp the nation’s debt.

—David Waihiga Mwaure, lawyer and a pastor

Mwaure in his sixth attempt at a political office says he’s vying for presidency to return what he says is illegal wealth of $125 billion stashed overseas.

Mwaure also pledged loans and grants to help women and the youth start and run small enterprises.

His administration would employ clergy at registered churches and mosques as alternative dispute-resolution officers to ease a backlog in the nation’s judiciary.

The clergyman ran for a Senate seat in 2017, but lost. In the previous election, he vied to be a governor.

—George Wajackoyah, law professor

Wajackoyah is pledging to legalize industrial marijuana, boost snake farming, and export dog meat and hyena testicles.

Exports of the unconventional products will help Kenya repay its entire debt, he says.

The ex-cop also plans to shut the Chinese built and funded $5 billion standard gauge railway that links the capital, Nairobi, with the port of Mombasa, saying it is a symbol of Chinese colonization.

Wajackoyah, an immigration attorney who spent years challenging decisions at the Department of Immigration at the U.K.’s Home Office, plans to suspend the constitution and deport foreigners

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