NAIROBI – Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta won a reelection on Aug. 8 largely due to enhanced grassroots campaign strategy and scores he gained from the eastAfrican country’s infrastructure development, experts said on Saturday.
The intensity of grassroots campaigns that involved nationwide visits to small market centers is captured by remarks of State House spokesperson Manoah Esipisu that since May 29, when Kenyatta submitted his candidacy documents to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, he held more than 400 rallies.
“In the last week of the campaigns Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto visited and campaigned in 14 counties,” said the spokesperson.
Bob Wekesa, research associate of the China-Africa Reporting Project at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, attributed Kenyatta’s victory to the campaign strategy his Jubilee Party adopted at the grassroots level, which is educating voters about its policies.
“The modus operandi of campaigning by Jubilee was well thought out and this explains why it penetrated into opposition’s strongholds including winning 8 parliamentary seats in Western Kenya,” said Wekesa, adding that Jubilee did more footwork than the opposition.
Observers also note that Kenyatta’s well-financed campaigns saw a better advertising. David Otieno, a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Nairobi, believes Kenyatta won also “because he chose nationalism over mere political expediency.”
Otieno cited “regular calls for unity and an election slogan of 45- million-strong,” which means Kenyatta’s party serves the country’s total 45 million population, in sharp comparison to the opposition’s 10-million-strong -- to get 10 million votes out of the 19.6 million electorate.
“He toured every county to its grassroots severally, as he asked for votes. Further to this, his asking for votes was predicated on a developmental peace model that was not condescending to any tribe,” he added.
Otieno also links Kenyatta’s win to his scores in infrastructure development, citing the 480-km standard gauge railway (SGR) put into operation in May between the capital Nairobi and the southeastern port city of Mombasa, which is expected to add 1.5 percent growth to Kenya’s gross domestic product.
Another project is the 360-km Isiolo-Moyale highway which opened the trade corridor with Ethiopia.
According to Otieno, Kenyatta also worked to expand specialized medical services including dialysis, and to double the coverage of the National Hospital Insurance Fund to 6 million people. Among his other records are improved digital education and enlarged population with access to electric power.
Kenyatta was also applauded for high-level exchanges with leaders of China, the United States, Europe and the Middle East, trade deals, concessional loan agreements, and more international meetings Kenya hosts.
Foreign Minister Amina Mohammed said Kenyatta greatly helps Kenya in its efforts to entrench its leadership as a regional economic power as well as to achieve global competitiveness.
“Diplomacy is conducted through face-to-face engagements and meetings. Kenya is a very important country in the southern hemisphere, being the only capital in the developing world to host a United Nations office,” Mohammed said.
“These efforts, foreign trips by Kenyatta, have borne positive results,” she said, noting that foreign direct investment inflows into Kenya have risen up and “the investments have resulted in the creation of jobs and wealth.”