Team of rivals

Kenya election 2022: How the Odinga and Kenyatta dynasties set aside their differences

By Patrick Smith

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Posted on May 9, 2022 20:18

The nuptials between the Kenyatta and Odinga clans ahead of this year’s presidential election in Kenya took many aback. Political monogamy is not a common trait among Kenyan presidential contenders, but the alliance between outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta and his longtime rival Raila Odinga seems to be holding. History plays a role. And the dynasties of Kenyatta and Odinga have that in abundance, dating back to the liberation struggle against British colonial rule more than seven decades ago.

That backstory made it easier for President Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila to negotiate a rapprochement after their bitter dispute over the election results in 2017. That fight culminated in Raila’s parallel inauguration ceremony and mass civil disobedience against Kenyatta’s presidency.

Some feared the country would split at the seams. Kenyatta’s hard-line supporters favoured putting Raila on trial for treason. Others talked of a guerrilla struggle against a presidential usurper.

It took the protagonists another six months following prolonged one-on-one meetings to hammer out a route out of the abyss. Raila shared with The Africa Report how during their first meeting to defuse the crisis, he and Kenyatta sat facing each other, their conversation punctuated only by the occasional sip of water.

“At first it was very hard because we had said very nasty things against each other,

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