Kenyan elections: The ethnicity factor

ELECTIONS- President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and Opposition leader, Raila Odinga (right)A convoy of pick-up trucks wrapped in shiny touched-up photos of candidates and mounted with huge speakers drive slowly in front of Anne Wanjiru Kamau’s food stall in Nairobi’s Pangani area, blasting campaign speeches by politicians from Kenya’s opposition coalition.

On August 8, Kamau and millions of Kenyan voters will cast their ballots in the country’s general election, but today, Kamau is not paying much attention to the campaign slogans passing by, nor are her customers.

“I will vote for Kenyatta. He is our son. They are wasting their time,” Kamau tells Al Jazeera as she weighs a kilo of red beans for a customer.

Kamau, like President Uhuru Kenyatta, comes from the Kikuyu tribe – the country’s biggest ethnic group.

Ethnicity plays a big role in who makes it to the presidency in this East African country. Kenya is home to more than 40 tribes and competition for political seats has never been more serious, with most Kenyans getting behind candidates from their ethnic groups.

The five largest ethnic groups – the Kikuyu, Luhya, Kalenjin, Luo and Kamba – make up nearly 70 percent of the country’s 48 million population, according to country’s last population census in 2009.

Most of the leaders playing an important role in deciding the outcome of the election come from these tribes.

The opposition coalition is led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga from the Luo tribe – Kenya’s fourth-largest group. His running mates are from the Luhya and Kamba group.

Kenyatta’s running mate is from the country’s third-biggest tribe.

“This is going to be my third time voting and I have never voted for someone from another tribe,” Kamau says.

“In 2007, I voted for Kibaki [a Kikuyu] and in 2013, I supported Kenyatta,” the 38-year-old added.

Almost all the voters who spoke to Al Jazeera in the Kenyan capital said they are voting for candidates from their own tribe out of “fear” of someone other than their own taking office and lack of “trust” in candidates from other ethnic groups.

Dorothy Makungu’s shop is located not far from Kamau’s stall across the traffic-congested road.

She sells fruits and fresh juices to passing traffic and pedestrians.

Makungu says she is not excited about the elections but knows for which candidate she will vote.

“There is nothing Kenyatta can say to make me vote for him. Last election, I voted for Raila and this time I will vote for him,” she says. -Aljazeera

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