What you need to know:
- Deputy President and the ODM leader are ramping up their hunt for campaign financing.
- Both are banking on the support of local as well as international backers to wage a spirited fight.
Deputy President William Ruto and Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga are racing to attract campaign billions as they re-establish networks with “friends of goodwill” across the globe in readiness for a presidential run in 2022.
The leaders are targeting benevolent tycoons, the diaspora, foreign governments and donors.
Each camp is targeting to raise at least Sh50 billion between now and August next year to mount a formidable campaign, in what will likely be the most expensive presidential bid in the country’s history.
Conservative estimates by insiders show that President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga combined splurged about Sh20 billion on the campaign trail in 2013 and more than double the amount in 2017.
The presidential re-run following the voiding of results by the Supreme Court pushed the figure even higher.
Currently, Dr Ruto’s team are in the United States to woo support from the diaspora.
The United Democratic Alliance announced on Wednesday that “secretary-general Veronica Maina accompanied by MPs Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati) and Caleb Kositany (Soy) are in the US to launch UDA Minnesota and UDA Dallas chapters on July 23 and 25”.
“Our goal is to bring together Kenyans in the diaspora and ensure they are fully involved in the country’s economic development, especially the bottom-up economic model advocated by UDA,” the party said.
Its announcement came a week after Mr Odinga went to Dubai for a mission that the Sunday Nation has been told involved interacting with “old friends and strategising on how to mount a super campaign next year”. Suna East MP Junet Mohamed led an advance team to the United Arab Emirates.
Mombasa businessman Suleiman Shahbal, who recently defected to ODM, is said to be a leading figure in connecting the Orange party with some of his vast networks in the Middle East that could give the campaign a shot in the arm.
These networks are crucial for Mr Odinga, who lost a key ally in Tanzania’s John Magufuli earlier in the year. Mr Odinga maintains strong ties with Cyril Ramaphosa, the billionaire South African president who has been a key ally in his political journey.
Ruto’s biggest headache
Mr Odinga has also leveraged on his appointment as the High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa by the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat in 2018 to expand his networks in the continent, a mission only slowed down by the Covid-19 pandemic that curtailed cross-border travels for the better part of last year.
In the grand scheme of things, Mr Odinga remains Dr Ruto’s biggest headache in the race to State House in 2022, and so the arsenal the Deputy President is building is principally aimed at stopping the ODM leader. In this regard, the DP is working hard to win over some of Mr Odinga’s traditional campaign financiers.
For instance, during his recent Uganda trip to meet with President Yoweri Museveni, Dr Ruto was accompanied by Mr David Lagat, who has supported Mr Odinga in the past. Mr Museveni has himself had a love-hate relationship with Mr Odinga and his camaraderie with Dr Ruto could further strain the President’s links with the ODM leader.
Thus, well aware that he might find himself running against a state-backed candidate, Dr Ruto, who also visited Dubai in November last year, is looking to win both the billions and the hearts of the diaspora and politically connected neighbours.
Both Mr Odinga and the DP are betting big on their friends in the US and the UK, with their respective handlers saying they will be having tours in the two countries towards the end of the year and early next year.
UDA chairman Johnson Muthama said the party believes that the key to reducing the cost of a presidential campaign is recruiting as many grassroots members as possible.
“I will not say how many new members we seek to recruit, but having a huge number will mean having many ambassadors out there campaigning for us,” Mr Muthama said, adding: “What Hustler movement stands for is not just popular in the US but in Europe as well. Kenyans living abroad do not want to be left out, they are joining us in their numbers and will support this nobble initiative.”
In the Kampala meeting, Dr Ruto is said to have not only asked for Mr Museveni’s help in the campaigns, but also sought his intervention in reconciling with President Kenyatta. The Sunday Nation could not independently verify the claim. Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi, who accompanied the DP, refused to divulge details of the mission. Tellingly, however, Dr Ruto asked Mr Museveni to establish and assume leadership of a unit called the East African Federation.
“You owe us a debt. Before you retire, and if possible in the next two or three years, you owe us the fruition of the EA Federation,” he said at Matugga,in Wakiso district, some 20 kilometres north of Kampala.
Back in Nairobi, Mr Odinga has been dropping hints that he will be seeking to succeed President Kenyatta but has not categorically stated so. The latest of such hints have been proposals to change the fortunes of rural Kenya and what he would do to tackle corruption.
Experts are predicting a tough 2022 duel for State House, perhaps tougher than the last two, and only comparable to 2007 that divided the country down the middle. The duel also left a trail of death after more than 1,200 were killed in skirmishes after the contested vote that saw Mr Mwai Kibaki controversially sworn in as president.
Ahead of the 2017 General Election had the government tightened the noose on all monies coming in from abroad to support political campaigns, with the opposition coalition Nasa, whose presidential candidate was Mr Odinga, crying foul that its efforts to mobilise funds were being targeted.
A multi-agency team headed by the Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua resolved to closely monitor the interactions between political parties and foreign donors, with more focus inevitably on Nasa, which was the biggest threat to the Jubilee administration at the time.
The Kinyua committee drew its membership from the National Treasury (including the Central Bank), the National Intelligence Service, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Kenya Revenue Authority.
Its formation coincided with trips by Mr Odinga to Jerusalem and Dubai in a bid to raise campaign money. Given the close ties Mr Odinga had with the late Tanzanian president John Magufuli, cash flows between Kenya and the neighbouring country came under immense scrutiny.
At one of the campaign rallies, then Majority Leader in the National Assembly Aden Duale claimed the Magufuli administration had offered to host a parallel presidential vote-tallying centre on behalf of Nasa. He, however, did not provide any evidence.
In 2017, ODM treasurer and Kitutu Masaba MP Timothy Bosire, who sat in the coalition’s resource mobilisation team, said their projection was to have external support account for up to 30 per cent of the campaign budget, which he declined to disclose.
“We will accept help from our friends abroad as long as it is done within the law. Whether such help comes or not, we are sure to mount one of the best-financed and organised campaigns in this part of the world,” he said.
Longtime wealthy friends
It remains to be seen if the same script will be used this time round against the DP, who is keen attract as much external support after having a falling-out with Mr Kenyatta.
In 2017, the Financial Reporting Centre (FRC), a government institution created by the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering, monitored round the clock any movement of money into bank accounts from any possible external donors, with indications that Nasa may not have accessed as high as Sh10 billion sent to it from outside the country.
In the 2022 race, it is important to note that, while Parliament suspended the application of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act number 1 of 2017, the law will come into force next year. The Act also caps campaign budgets and expenditure.
In the run up to the 2013 polls, talk had been rife that Mr Kenyatta and Dr Ruto had outsmarted Mr Odinga and taken over some of his longtime wealthy friends from West Africa, especially Nigeria.
The visit by the Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to Kenya in 2013 accompanied by some of the country’s wealthy investors gave this talk more credence. Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, was in the delegation.
Some of Mr Odinga’s close Nigerian friends are former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuany.
In his trip to the Emirate of Dubai last year, Dr Ruto met former Nigerian vice-president Atiku Abubakar, who is among the richest people in Africa. They both harbour presidential ambitions.
While Dr Ruto will be taking a stab at the presidency in 2022, Mr Abubakar is the candidate for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the Nigerian presidential race a year later, in 2023.
In the last General Election both Jubilee and Nasa received support from foreign firms. Vanguard Africa, an American NGO supported the opposition while Cambridge Analytica, a firm that supported former US President Donald Trump’s election, was retained by Jubilee.