Kenya’s monetised and commercialised 2022 general elections

Kenya’s monetised and commercialised 2022 general elections

Billboards of Kenya's Raila Odinga of the Azimio la Umoja & Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto. (Photo Courtesy-Reuters)

Kenya has had its longest stretched out campaign where outgoing president Uhuru Kenyatta is backing his former rival Raila Omoro Odinga. Raila is facing off Uhuru Kenyatta’s estranged former running-mate and deputy president, William S. Ruto. These two have overshadowed the other presidential candidates – George Wajackoyah and Mwaure Waihiga.

Several political candidates procured or hired helicopters and high-end motor vehicles in preparation for the do-or-die political contests. Reports indicated that over 100 helicopters were in use on the campaign trail, and majority of these were imported from South Africa. Each chopper is hired at $2,500 per hour or purchased at $2.5 million.

According to the Business Daily, 47 helicopters have officially been registered by civilians since last year with 41 of these belonging to politicians. The helicopters are beneficial to politicians who have to crisscross their constituencies and counties to woo voters.

At presidential level, the candidates Raila Odinga and William Ruto of the two front-line rival political coalitions namely Azimio La Umoja – One Kenya and Kenya Kwanza respectively, engaged in “ground spending wars”.

A case in point was on July 3, 2022 at Nyamira when the Azimio La Umoja-One Kenya coalition Presidential candidate Raila Odinga, his running mate Martha Karua and Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’I, put up a show of financial might, by landing in Nyamira for several rallies in seven helicopters (choppers).

The Kenya Kwanza candidate also responded in equal measure, using helicopters on his campaigns as he traversed the country. When pressed for the source of the campaign monies being spent on helicopters, William Ruto’s running mate, Rigathi Gachagua claimed that they rely heavily on donations to sustain their movements across the country.

“We often rely on donations from people, mostly choppers, vehicles, fuel, and personnel. The campaign is bottom driven and a lot of hustlers have supported us throughout the campaigns,” said Gachagua.

There has been too much money circulating in the campaigns for Kenya’s 2022 general elections, especially at presidential level. There has also been excessive spending on media advertising, especially Television Ads on all popular stations as well as on outdoor advertising. The cost of campaign administration has also been enormous.

The bigger question is where this money is coming from, and the intentions of the campaign donors whose identities have until now been largely concealed. This vindicates why the political class was hellbent on ensuring IEBC does not enforce the Election Campaign Financing Act 2013.

Both political camps – Azimio La Umoja – One Kenya and Kenya Kwanza were observed engaging in misuse of state resources for partisan electioneering. A case in point is when outgoing president, Uhuru Kenya whose Jubilee Political Party is a member of the Azimio La Umoja coalition, with less than 10 days to the election personally delivered a government cash bailout of Kshs 450 million ($3.9 million) to Nzoia Sugar to pay arrears of out-grower sugar farmers. While handing out the dummy cheque, President Uhuru told the farmers that, “sasa vote for Mzee (Raila Odinga)

Conversely, Vice President Ruto has been using his office facilities for campaigns over the past four years including using his state mansion for campaign meetings. Kenyan political analysts estimate that over the past 4 years, Ruto may have spent over Ksh. 7.5 billion ($62.5 million) on vote canvassing activities.

Local political analysts claim that most of the money that has been used on Kenya general election campaigns 2022 comes from dirty sources. They further argue that over 40% of the political candidates seeking election have been sponsored by the money laundering industry.

According to a pre-election analysis published by local civil society organisation – Elections Observation Group (ELOG), acts of voter inducement were rampant during the campaigns as political contestants used branded gift items such as food products, branded T-Shirts, reflector jackets for Bodaboda cyclists, fabric materials locally known as lesos to entice voters.

The campaigns at lower electoral levels namely; Gubernatorial, Member of National Assembly (Parliament), Member of County Assembly (MCA), and County Woman Representative, were awash with cash donations.  Voters were observed lining up openly to receive cash handouts from candidates. This practice was reported by ELOG observers in all sampled counties across Kenya.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.