Kenya: Who’s who in Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja alliance?

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Kenya 2022: Who will win the great race?

By Jeff Otieno
Posted on Wednesday, 13 April 2022 16:41, updated on Wednesday, 29 June 2022 11:54

Presidential contender and former prime minister Raila Odinga is counting on his skills in building a coalition to take on deputy president William Ruto in the August 2022 polls. One Kenya Alliance leaders Kalonzo Musyoka and Gideon Moi have joined Raila's Azimio la Umoja coalition, setting the stage for a face-off with deputy president William Ruto and his Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

On 12 March, Azimio la Umoja, which brings together more than 20 political parties, unveiled Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila as its flag bearer in this year’s presidential election.

The coalition, crafted around ethnic kingpins, mimics the National Rainbow Coalition that swept the Kenya Africa National Union (KANU) party from power in 2002.

READ MORE Kenya’s Ruto: ‘[I] will accept the outcome of the election whichever way it goes’

According to documents seen by the media, Azimio will have at least four deputy chairs to be picked from the Coast, Western, North-eastern and either Nairobi or Eastern regions. It will also have a position of secretary reportedly earmarked for a candidate from Nyanza, and an organising secretary, probably from Rift Valley.

The coalition has attracted some of Kenya’s political heavyweights and also top professionals who have excelled both locally and internationally. Below are some of the people Raila will rely on to vie for the presidency…which has eluded him four times.

Uhuru Kenyatta

Apart from Raila, Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, is viewed as the most powerful and influential person in the coalition. He is expected to be named the coalition’s patron once all its structures are in place.

The head of state is credited with brokering a deal between Raila and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka that saw the latter join Azimio, to the relief of many supporters in the Raila camp. The ODM leader will heavily rely on Kenyatta’s campaign magic to forestall Ruto’s ‘hustler vs dynasty’ narrative, which is currently sweeping the vote-rich Mount Kenya region.

Kalonzo Musyoka

The 68-year-old Wiper party leader was a surprise entrant in the coalition, having maintained he would rather retire from politics than support Raila’s presidential bid for a third time. Musyoka’s support is a major boost to Azimio’s chances of clinching the top seat.

Kalonzo has been in politics for more than three decades. He served as vice-president in the grand coalition government formed bythen president Mwai Kibaki and Raila after the disputed 2007 presidential election.

Gideon Moi

After supporting Kenyatta’s presidential bid in 2013 and 2017, Moi, the son of Kenya’s second president, Daniel arap Moi, is now a key player in the ODM leader’s presidential bid. The 58-year-old is credited with shepherding the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) and ensuring the remaining members joined Azimio after Musalia Mudavadi (Amani National Congress) and Moses Wetangula (Ford Kenya) joined the Kenya Kwanza Alliance led by the deputy president.

Moi’s behind-the-scenes deal-making skills and financial muscle will come in handy for Raila as the battle for numbers takes shape.

Ndiritu Muriithi

The 55-year-old Laikipia county governor is the chair of Raila’s presidential campaign board. Ndiritu surprised many when he declared support for the ODM leader. At that time, the majority of legislators in the county were trooping over to Ruto’s corner.

Ndiritu, a nephew of former president Kibaki, served as an assistant minister for industrialisation in the grand coalition government. He supported Kenyatta in the subsequent presidential elections.

Wycliffe Oparanya

The 64-year-old two-time Kakamega county governor is a member of Raila’s presidential campaign board. He came into the national limelight in the grand coalition government where he served as planning minister. The ODM deputy party leader has been tasked with coordinating campaign activities in the Western region. The Kakamega governor is known for his grassroots mobilisation capabilities, which will be crucial in the get-out-and-vote campaign in ODM-leaning counties.

Hassan Joho

Like Oparanya, the two-time Mombasa county governor is also a member of Raila’s campaign team. The 46-year-old is also an ODM deputy party leader and is considered one of the most influential politicians in Raila’s inner circle.

Joho is tasked with ensuring the Coast region remains an ODM/Azimio bastion and Raila the preferred presidential candidate. He is a grassroots mobiliser and enjoys massive support among the youth, an advantage expected to benefit Raila come election day.

Charity Ngilu

The one-time Kitui county governor and the National Rainbow Coalition party leader is the top female politician in the coalition. The 70-year-old leader has been an Raila ally since the National Rainbow Coalition beat KANU in 2002. She supported Raila’s presidential bide in 2007, 2013 and 2017. This time around, she also came out early in support of the ODM leader’s fifth run for the presidency. Ngilu was one of the few politicians present in the last-minute negotiations between Raila and Musyoka and Moi, ahead of the unveiling of Raila as Azimio la Umoja’s flag bearer.

Makau Mutua

Professor Mutua is the spokesperson of Raila’s presidential campaign secretariat and the head of its think tank. The 64 year old is a distinguished professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He is a former dean of its law school. He has also served as the associate director of the Harvard Law School’s human rights programme.

Elizabeth Meyo

Meyo is the chief executive officer of Raila’s campaign board. She will be responsible for implementing the board’s strategic decisions. Meyo brings to the board a wealth of experience in finance and strategic management, having served in various departments at the Kenya Revenue Authority for more than two decades.

The last position she held at the authority before retiring was that of the commissioner for domestic taxes, where she implemented the iTAX portal, which has improved the efficiency of the government’s revenue collection.

Paul Mwangi

The 55 year old is a member of Raila’s think tank, which is tasked with providing research and guidance to the campaign board. Mwangi is Raila’s trusted lawyer and was one of the leading counsels in the National Super Alliance’s case that successfully challenged Kenyatta’s 2017 election at the Supreme Court.

Mwangi was also instrumental in the drafting of the Building Bridges Initiatives programme for government reform that was endorsed by President Kenyatta and Raila but declared illegal by the High Court and Court of Appeal.

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