Kenya 2022: The money and faces behind Raila’s and Ruto’s expensive campaigns

By Jeff Otieno
Posted on Wednesday, 2 March 2022 13:53, updated on Monday, 20 June 2022 11:20

Raila Odinga (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

This year’s presidential campaign will be the most expensive in Kenya’s history, analysts say, due to the fierce succession battle that pits former prime minister Raila Odinga against deputy president William Ruto.

When the campaign period ends on 6 August, top presidential contenders Ruto and Raila will be beyond doubt the highest spenders.

Raila’s Mount Kenya connections

Raila is backed by, among others, a group of wealthy individuals from Mount Kenya region under the auspices of the Mount Kenya Foundation.

In 2017, the foundation bankrolled President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto’s, re-election campaign. In one occasion, for example, the group organized a fundraiser that collected almost KSh1bn ($8.8m) in less than two hours.

The group comprises former Equity Bank Group chairman Peter Munga, Royal Media Services chairman SK Macharia and Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor Development Authority chairman, Titus Ibui.

Given that this election might go either way, some businessmen from Mount Kenya have decided not to put all their eggs in one basket so as not to miss out being in the next government.

Others are Equity Bank Group CEO James Mwangi, former Dagoretti South member of parliament Denis Waweru, President Kenyatta’s uncle George Muhoho, former Kenya Revenue Authority director general Michael Waweru and Kenya Nut Company proprietor Pius Ngugi.

Raila is also well connected abroad and has raised funds for his presidential campaigns from friends and organisations based in the North America, Europe and Asia.

And some people are hedging their bets. “Given that this election might go either way, some businessmen from Mount Kenya have decided not to put all their eggs in one basket so as not to miss out being in the next government,” said a local journalist covering the presidential campaigns who preferred to remain anonymous.

Businessmen funding both Ruto and Raila

Information about funding for Ruto’s campaign is harder to come by. Sources indicate that some backers hail from the Mount Kenya region and his native Rift Valley.

Early this year, Ruto ally Oscar Sudi said that the government was frustrating their efforts to get funding by firing all cabinet secretaries close to Ruto.

“Any investor who comes close to the deputy president has been frustrated. This is aimed at destroying any source of our campaign funds,” said the legislator.

Sudi made the claim after he was briefly stopped by the authorities at Wilson Airport in the company of British politician-cum-philanthropist Michael Spencer and Tanzanian politician Lazaro Nyalandu.

Sudi had a similar fracas at the same airport last year, when Turkish businessman Harun Aydin was arrested and deported due to charges of money-laundering and being in the country illegally. Ruto’s team vehemently denied the allegations, insisting that Aydin was a genuine businessman and his only supposed sin was his association with Ruto.

Kenyatta’s allies say Ruto’s team is desperately telling investors that he will form the next government so as to get campaign money.

Deep pockets

Funding aside, Ruto and Raila are wealthy in their own right.

Raila comes from a wealthy family. His father, Jaramogi Odinga, was the first vice-president of post-independence Kenya. Apart from being a politician, Jaramogi, was also a businessman who established companies that are currently run as family businesses.

In an interview with Nation Television last year, Raila Odinga said he was worth KSh2bn ($17.5m), dismissing reports that he was one of the richest individuals in Kenya. “They say I am so rich. That KSh2bn is in terms of properties,” said Raila.

Self-made millionaire

Ruto, on the other hand, is a self-made millionaire who rose from being a chicken seller to become one of the wealthiest politicians in modern-day Kenya.

Unlike Raila, Ruto has always been cagey about his net worth. In 2019, the deputy president flatly refused to reveal his wealth, even after constant prodding by BBC journalist Stephen Sackur.

“It is in the public domain. I encourage you to Google and find out what Ruto owns,” the deputy president said.

However, last year internal security cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i, revealed part of the deputy president’s wealth while appearing before a parliamentary committee to answer questions on Ruto’s security detail.

He indicated that Ruto had large investments in the energy, real estate, agriculture, hospitality and transport sectors worth millions of shillings.

“They could have added that in my poultry business, I have 200,000 chickens, and that I get 150,000 eggs daily which earns me KSh1.5m daily,” said Ruto in response to the revelations, adding that he also holds 400,000 Safaricom shares and 80,000 Kenya Airways shares.

Opacity on the numbers

Though it is highly unlikely that the two will reveal the amount of money spent on their campaigns, many analysts agree that the figure will run into millions of shillings, if not billions.

The two politicians have already hit the road, even though the official campaign period is still two months away.

Apart from accommodation and transport needs being catered for, the delegates are also paid participation fees. There is nothing for free.

Ruto, for example, has been in campaign mode since 2018, and that is partly the reason why he fell out with Kenyatta, who accused him of abandoning his constitutional duties.

“Work is not done from top of vehicles while campaigning but through inspecting projects in hospitals and offices,” Kenyatta said recently.

Kenyatta’s allies also accuse Ruto of turning his official residence into a campaign headquarters and site for receiving delegations. “Apart from accommodation and transport needs being catered for, the delegates are also paid participation fees. There is nothing for free,” says a local journalist covering the election.

Counting on cash

Before announcing his presidential bid, Raila also held numerous consultation meetings in different counties, which cost him millions of shillings.

“Odinga’s campaign team footed the facilitation costs and also ensured delegates went back home with some money in their pockets,” adds the journalist.

There are videos showing political agents paying individuals for attending rallies organised by the two presidential contenders, an element of proof that this year’s presidential campaigns will be one of the most expensive in the country’s history.

“It is highly likely that the campaign expenditure for the two presidential candidates will surpass the KSh4.4bn limit that had been proposed by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, considering what has not been done so far like producing manifestoes, printing posters and T-shirts, hiring extra manpower and vehicles, advertising in the media and many more,” concludes the journalist.

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