13 February 2013

On the Campaign Trail in Kenya

Andrew Green and Will Boase are on the campaign trail in Kenya following Prime Minister Raila Odinga. They raised money to do so through an Indiegogo campaign (to which I contributed). Here is a short section of a recent update of their travels:
We got dropped in a football field off the main road – a quiet, shop-lined street masked by swirling gray dust clouds. Volunteers set up a stage, hung speakers and wrapped a tent around a Port-a-Pot we could only assume was for exclusive prime ministerial use, as we interviewed and photographed early arrivals. Among them were members of a group calling itself the Donkey Team, who had come, donkeys and carts in tow, to demand more and better-paid jobs.

But most people wanted to talk about security. Garcen is located in a region rocked by a slew of tribal killings five months ago, including an attack on a prayer room in a mosque. People had turned up at the rally to find out what the prime minister would do to stop the violence and ease the ethnic tensions that have dominated headlines since the country’s independence 50 years ago.

It’s difficult to hold a candidate accountable on the campaign trail, though, even if you’re one of his potential voters. Odinga is whisked in, there is pomp and circumstance and some kind of quick entertainment, followed by a bevy of short speeches by local politicians who want to bask in the potential presidential glow and then a basic stump speech by the man himself. It’s filled with empty rhetoric – promises to improve the economy and infrastructure and health care and security – without any details on how this will be accomplished.

Unfortunately, in Garsen, we didn’t get to find out if the president went beyond the usual assurances to get into the nitty-gritty of addressing the Tana River violence. Because as soon as Odinga started speaking, we were hustled into a car en route to Lamu – a resort island in the Indian Ocean where the prime minister would be spending the night. Our car was responsible for shepherding his official overnight bag, so we had to make sure we beat him to Lamu. (He ended up winning, apparently earning our escort a pretty severe telling off.)
 Here is a recent report from Green on Odinga's aim to win the election in the first round in VOA.
Odinga and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta are Kenya’s presidential frontrunners. With eight candidates in the field, however, surveys indicate none of the contenders will win more than half the vote in the first round. That would set up a run-off election between the top two finishers.

Despite the polls, Odinga’s strategists are convinced a first-round victory is possible. 
It is a massive operation. The Odinga campaign includes eight different advance teams and thousands of volunteers. Last week they organized packed rallies across the Coast province. 
There, members of Odinga’s Coalition for Reforms and Democracy increased their offensive against Kenyatta, continuously reminding voters that he is under indictment by the International Criminal Court.