Your Guide to the Main Political Players in Kenya’s Elections

Kenyans are gearing up for elections in August with trepidation. Four of the six votes held since the advent of multiparty democracy in 1991 have been marred by violence and intimidation. The lead-up to this year’s contest has been characterized by discord over the electoral rules and the impartiality of the electoral commission. The presidential race is set to be a cliffhanger, adding to the tension.

These are the main players and their party associations :

President Uhuru Kenyatta

Kenyatta, 55, who won power in 2013 after joining forces with one-time rival Wiilliam Ruto under the banner of the Jubilee Alliance, is seeking a second term. The son of the nation’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, he worked as a bank teller, studied politics, economics and government at Amherst College in Massachusetts and ran his own export business before entering politics. A member of the Kikuyu community, the largest of more than 40 ethnic groups in Kenya, he won election as a lawmaker in 2001 and served as minister of local government, trade and finance, as well as deputy prime minister. The International Criminal Court charged Kenyatta and Ruto with crimes against humanity for instigating violence after the 2007 vote that claimed more than 1,100 lives, but the cases were dropped in 2014 and 2016 respectively for a lack of evidence. Both men denied any wrongdoing.

Vice President William Ruto

Ruto, 50, is backing Kenyatta’s re-election with the understanding that he’ll get support when he runs for the top job in 2022. Ruto has been pivotal in rallying his native Kalenjin community, the country’s fourth-largest ethnic group, to support Jubilee. He served as agriculture minister and higher education minister in President Mwai Kibaki’s coalition government that was formed after the violence-plagued 2007 election. He was dropped from the cabinet in 2011, returning as vice president in 2013 after standing as Kenyatta’s running mate. Ruto has been implicated in several scandals besides the ICC case, including allegations that he defrauded the Kenya Pipeline Co. of millions of shillings in a 2011 real-estate deal. Kenya’s High Court acquitted him of all charges due to a lack of evidence.

Raila Odinga

Odinga, 72, has had three unsuccessful runs at Kenya’s presidency. He came closest to winning in 2007, when he and many observers maintained that he secured the most votes even as Kibaki was declared the winner. Odinga eventually agreed to become Kibaki’s prime minister under a power-sharing deal that helped end two months of violence. Odinga alleged he was cheated out of the presidency again in 2013, when he won 43 percent of the vote because there was widespread rigging, a contention rejected by the Supreme Court. It’s unclear whether Odinga will run for a fourth time -- his Coalition for Reforms and Democracy agreed to unite with three other parties last month to contest the elections under the banner of the National Super Alliance, or Nasa, and it has yet to choose a candidate. The son of Kenya’s first vice president, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Raila Odinga commands strong support among the Luo, the country’s third-biggest ethnic group.

Kalonzo Musyoka

Musyoka, 63, who trained as a lawyer, ran for the presidency in 2007 when he finished third behind Kibaki and Odinga. He was named vice president in the coalition government that was formed the following year and held the post until the 2013 vote, when he was Odinga’s running mate. He is the leader of the Wiper Democratic Movement, which also signed up to Nasa.

Musalia Mudavadi

Mudavadi, 56, served as former president Daniel arap Moi’s vice president in 2002 and as deputy prime minister to Odinga from 2008 to 2012. He also held several posts in Moi’s cabinet, including that of finance minister. He contested the 2013 presidential elections, finishing third behind Kenyatta and Odinga. Mudavadi, the leader of the Amani National Congress he founded in 2015, spearheaded the formation of Nasa and has signaled he’s prepared to be its presidential candidate.

Moses Wetang’ula

Wetang’ula, 60, is a leader of the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy-Kenya party, which is also part of Nasa. He trained as a lawyer and was previously chairman of Kenya’s Electricity Regulatory Board, foreign minister, trade minister and minority leader in the Senate.

Gideon Moi

Moi, 53, is the youngest son of Daniel arap Moi and the leader of the Kenya African National Union party. While Moi is backing Kenyatta’s re-election, his party has entered into an alliance with Isaac Ruto’s Chama Cha Mashinani party to contest the legislative vote. Like Deputy President William Ruto, Moi is a Kalenjin and could undermine Jubilee’s support in the Rift Valley, a key voting block. Moi has served as a senator since the 2013 elections.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
    LEARN MORE