It was a clash of styles and strategies as Kenya’s leading presidential aspirants held their last election rallies in and around the capital, Nairobi, on Saturday.
With the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) stipulating August 6 as the deadline for an end to political campaigns, Raila Odinga made a last-minute plea at his afternoon rally to a crowd of supporters who almost filled two-thirds of the Moi Sports Centre in the suburb of Kasarani.
“There is no known fight to make Kenya a better place that has been led by the people on the other side,” he said in a prepared speech that was sandwiched by serenading from Tanzanian superstar, Diamond Platnumz, and the sound of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song from the speakers.
Odinga was referring to being jailed in the 1980s while fighting for the introduction of multiparty politics, and his running mate, Martha Karua’s reputation for having a hardline anti-corruption stance.
“We are running to make Kenya a first-class global democracy and economy,” the Azimio La Umoja coalition presidential candidate said in English. “We are running to build a Kenya of hope and opportunity.”
Around him, coalition supporters made colourful noise, including vuvuzela-blowing youngsters and a robot made of metal and rubber covered in posters.
“Whose hands will dismantle the bandit economy of corruption,” Odinga, 77, asked. “In whose hands are your families safe?”
One of those who applauded the speech was David Otieno, a 60-year-old carpenter and community leader in Mukuru Kwa Reuben slums on the outskirts of Nairobi, who had voted for him in his previous four attempts.
He planned to vote for the former prime minister again on Tuesday, he said, wearing a crown and holding a blue wooden hammer with “Baba the Fifth” inscribed on it, because of a divine mandate.
“God revealed to me that Odinga is the chosen one,” the father of 10 who said he saw a vision of “the handshake”, the 2018 truce between Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta before it happened, told Al Jazeera. “Ruto is not a bad person but a leader must be ordained by God.”
Emily Adhiambo, who does menial jobs across the capital, said she walked almost 10km (6 miles) from the Kiambiu slums to see “Baba” Odinga and hear him.
“I have voted for him three times before but he is rigged out,” said the 31-year-old single mother who lauded Odinga’s promise to give Kenyan shilling 6,000 (approximately $60) per month as part of a social protection fund to about eight million people in poor and vulnerable households nationwide. “On Tuesday, we try again.”