Veteran Kenyan politician Odinga to make fifth run for president

BONDO, KENYA - OCTOBER 20: Opposition candidate Raila Odinga speaks to the crowd gathered at a funeral service for three men killed by the police during a protest the week prior, on October 20, 2017 in Bondo, Kenya. Tensions are high as Kenya waits for a new Presidential vote after it annulled the results of the first vote in August. Opposition candidate Raila Odinga has rejected the new election, saying a free and fair election was not currently possible in Kenya. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
Kenyan politician Raila Odinga. /Getty Images

Veteran Kenyan politician Raila Odinga announced Friday he would make his fifth bid for the presidency in next year’s election, ending months of suspense following a surprise truce with his former foe, President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The announcement at a Nairobi stadium packed with political bigwigs and thousands of supporters followed speculation that the 76-year-old — who was the face of Kenya’s opposition for decades — had struck a power-sharing deal with Kenyatta to secure his backing for the top job.

“I do hereby accept to present myself as a presidential candidate for the presidential elections of the 9th of August 2022,” he declared to raucous cheers, adding that he was committed to building a “democratic and progressive Kenya in our lifetime.”

“I am in this race to mould one indivisible nation,” he said.

A mainstay of Kenyan politics, the former prime minister — fondly referred to by many as “Baba” (“daddy” in Kiswahili) — remains hugely popular despite losing four shots at the presidency in 1997, 2007, 2013 and 2017.

But his fiery anti-establishment image took a knock in March 2018 when he stunned the country by clasping hands with Kenyatta just months after deadly post-election clashes.

The truce, known universally as “the handshake”, sparked speculation the two men had made a pact that would see Odinga succeed Kenyatta, a two-term president who cannot run a third time.

The two leaders also sought to expand the executive through proposed constitutional changes that would have potentially allowed Kenyatta to stay in power as a prime minister.

But despite Kenya’s top court ruling against the proposed amendments in August, the unexpected alliance has persevered with Odinga attending official government functions with Kenyatta.

On Friday, Odinga hailed Kenyatta for his “foresight and sense of patriotism in initiating the dialogue that led to the handshake”.

“It takes a seasoned statesman to shake the hand of his rival… In the course of our discussions, we agreed that Kenya is greater than the two of us.”