Era Kenyatta, cost of living… Understanding everything about the presidential election in Kenya

Since six o’clock in the morning, Kenyans have been flocking to the polling stations. The country begins its presidential election and its 22.1 million voters will have to vote six times to determine the political future of this country. The election sees Raila Odinga, 77, a veteran of the opposition now supported by power, and William Ruto, 55, vice-president who is a challenger, face off. 20 minutes looks back at five essential areas to better understand Kenya and this high-stakes election.

The presidential election at the end of an era?

Whatever the outcome, the new president of Kenya will make history by not belonging to the Kikuyu community, the country’s largest, which has controlled the top of the state for twenty years. The Constitution prevents the outgoing Uhuru Kenyatta, from this lineage, from standing again after two terms. The two adversaries know each other well for having been allies in the past. Now Raila Odinga, who holds the office of Prime Minister, forms a surprising alliance with the outgoing President. At the expense of vice-president and runner-up designate William Ruto. If neither of the two adversaries obtains more than 50% of the votes on Tuesday, Kenya will experience a second round in a presidential election for the very first time.

The presidential economic renewal?

Experts believe that the “tribal vote” factor could be eclipsed by the economic issues linked to this election, as the soaring cost of living dominates the minds of some 50 million inhabitants. Kenya is one of the fastest growing economies in East Africa. With relatively few natural resources but a remarkable economic dynamism and service sector, its profile is atypical in Africa. The country relies heavily on agriculture, which constitutes more than 22% of its GDP and the main source of its exports.

But the Covid-19 pandemic, then the war in Ukraine as well as a record drought, have hit this heavyweight on the continent hard, which despite dynamic growth (7.5% in 2021) remains plagued by endemic corruption. Golf courses and slums can be adjoining. The monthly minimum wage is 15,120 shillings (124 euros). The prices of fuel and foodstuffs, in particular of maize flour which constitutes the staple food of the country, have exploded. According to the NGO Oxfam, the wealth of the two richest Kenyans is greater than the combined income of 30% of the population.

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The presidential election at the end of electoral conflicts?

In the Republic of Kenya and its 46 tribes, ethnicity is a key factor in voting booths. Historically, the ethnic component has fueled electoral conflicts, as in 2007-2008 when Raila Odinga’s contestation of the results led to inter-community clashes killing more than 1,100 people. The country is also marked by the 2017 electoral saga, which saw the Supreme Court invalidate the ballot due to irregularities, a first in Africa. This time around, except for an impressive flow of disinformation on social networks, the campaign has been generally peaceful. Some 150,000 officers have however been deployed across the country.

Diplomatic sources said they were hopeful that calm would prevail on Tuesday but insisted, in this country marked by suspicion of fraud, on the issue of speed in the publication of the results. They are expected on August 16.

The presidential election that will restore the image of Kenya?

Kenya is nicknamed “the cradle of humanity” but has for some years lost its luster, in particular because of the specter of attacks. In 2019, 21 people died in a new attack on the Dusit hotel complex in Nairobi. However, the country has around fifty parks and nature reserves which attracted 1.5 million visitors in 2021. Among its jewels, more than 30,000 giraffes and the famous “Big five”: lion, elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo and leopard.

But Kenya counts among its inhabitants, artists or major athletes of the international scene. Wangari Maathai, one of Kenya’s best-known ambassadors for biodiversity, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. The country is also one of the great nations of long-distance and middle-distance running, with champions like Eliud Kipchoge or Faith Kipyegon.

Our file on Kenya

Sprinter Ferdinand Omanyala has also made a name for himself in the country of long-distance runners, setting the African record for the 100m in 2021 (9.77), then achieving the third best performance in the world in 2022 (9.85). But the shadow of doping hovers regularly. The country was on the verge of exclusion from the Rio Games in 2016 before announcing the introduction of specific measures such as the adoption of an anti-doping law.

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