NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — An alliance of Kenya’s main opposition groups Thursday named its presidential candidate to face President Uhuru Kenyatta in the August elections.
The National Super Alliance announced, in a rally attended by thousands of supporters in Nairobi’s main park, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga will run for the presidency with former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka as his running mate.
Two people died during the rally when a mob lynched them on suspicion of theft.
Odinga said if he is elected he will fight corruption, which observers say is a serious problem in Kenya. Kenya has been ranked near the bottom of the table of most corrupt countries in the world in an index by watchdog Transparency International. Kenyatta declared corruption a security threat in 2015 and has fired six of his ministers but none has faced any jail time.
Kenyatta beat Odinga and Kalonzo in 2013 with 50.07 percent of the vote. Kenyatta needed to win more than 50 percent of the votes to avoid a run-off with Odinga and he did so by only 4,099 votes out of more than 12.3 million cast. That slim win was challenged by Odinga — who got 43 percent of the votes — and civil society groups that complained of myriad anomalies in the voting process. The Supreme Court upheld Kenyatta’s win after nationally televised hearings.
Kenyatta is the son of Kenya’s founding President Jomo Kenyatta and Odinga is the son of founding Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.
Recent polls have put Kenyatta ahead of Odinga in popularity.
Odinga will be vying for the presidency for the fourth time, coming close in 2007 against Mwai Kibaki. Many felt Odinga had won that election, which observers said was flawed.
Protests that followed degenerated into tribal conflict in which more than 1,000 people died and 600,000 were evicted from their homes.
Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto were accused of orchestrating that violence and charged at the Hague-based International Criminal Court. The two politicians formed a coalition and rallied support by portraying the ICC as a tool of the West to influence selection of African leaders.
The ICC dropped charges against the two citing a lack of evidence. The ICC prosecutor said there was unprecedented witness interference, bribery, coercion and intimidation.
Kenya is a key element in East Africa’s economy and a vital security partner for the West. Kenyan troops are helping battle al-Shabab Islamic extremists inside Somalia and Kenya also hosts a U.S. military base near the Somali border.