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Meeting Kenya's outsiders

A deputy prime minister, a professor, a socialist and a teacher: Getting to know the 'other' presidential candidates.
Last Modified: 23 Feb 2013 13:46


While Kenya's leading candidates have dominated media coverage in this country and others, theirs are not the only names in the race. Here, we profile the lesser-known candidates in the running for Kenya's most powerful position.

Professor James Ole Kiyiapi

While most politicians around the world like to emphasise - or invent - their "working-class roots" in a bid to boost their popular appeal, forestry academic Professor James Ole Kiyiapi had truly humble beginnings.

The youngest child of the family, Kiyiapi grew up as a shepherd boy among the Maasai tribe.

"Life was fun, playing in the extensive fields herding cattle," he said. "I also helped my mother to roof our hut well by spreading cow dung."

It's hard to get much more humble than that.

But after being schooled in Kikuyu and getting a first degree at Moi University, Kiyiapi ventured to Toronto, where lecturers upgraded his MSc plans and placed him on a PhD course. He received his doctorate aged 32.

Now aged 51, the professor is aspiring to be Kenya's first "born-again Christian" leader.

"Prof Kiyiapi believes his is a divine calling to serve the country, and has staked all to respond to this call," wrote the Christian Post website.

His platform is centred around five key themes: Food security, healthcare, education, infrastructure development and security. He has promised to build a national broadband internet network and to give tax breaks to green energy investors. He has also said that the army's engineering corps should be allowed to bid for road construction work - both purportedly to increase quality and competition within the industry, but also to boost recruitment and funding for the military.

Standing for the Restore and Build Kenya party, Kiyiapi has pledged to ban matatus, the infamous - and often terrifying - minibus taxis which hurtle along the country's streets with seeming scant regard for legal customs of the road. Instead, he has pledged tax breaks for a new privately owned mass transit system.

Despite having been appointed as permanent secretary to the ministries of environment, medical services and education during the past six years, the presidency would be his first elected role.

Mohammed Abduba Dida

One complaint of many countries with varying systems of representational democracy is that those most likely to be elected are "career politicians", groomed by dynasties of power to win elections and enact governance - all without ever holding "a real job" first.

That can't be said of Mohammed Abduba Dida.

The first Somali-Kenyan to run for the nation's highest office, Dida is a high school teacher, with little in the way of traditional political experience - though running a classroom is known to involve the roles of mediator, law-maker and rule-enforcer, and knowing how to deal with large groups of children may well come in handy in the career of any parliamentarian.

The 39-year-old has largely been ignored by much of Kenya's media, which is focused on the Odinga-Kenyatta horse race, but Dida says he has much to offer those who would listen to his message of inclusivity.

"I will seek to address the overall quality of life, promote family values, eradicate poverty, promote sectarian cohesion and tolerance and utilise the country's intellects," he told Sabahi Online, a website sponsored by the US military. "All corners of the country and all economic sectors need to grow at the same pace."

Having taught English literature and religious studies at Dadaab Secondary School in the world's largest refugee camp, Dida has first-hand experience of the crushing poverty faced by many.

But with just 333 followers on Twitter at time of writing - compared with Kenyatta's 103,000 or Odinga's flock of more than 112,000 - it seems that Dida has struggled to reach voters, and will likely soon be returning to the classroom.

Musalia Mudavadi

Literature lover Musalia Mudavadi is a political veteran. He became an MP in 1989, elected unopposed in the constituency which his father had represented until his death.

A former vice-president of Kenya under President Daniel arap Moi, it was no great surprise that Moi, still highly influential in the Rift Valley province, endorsed Mudavadi's bid for the top job in January.

Representing the UDF in the Amani coalition, the 53-year-old ethnic Maragoli from the Luhya tribe is a staunch Quaker, and, as such, does not swear loyalty oaths in parliament. Many members of the Quaker faith believe that swearing an oath implies "a double standard of truth", as one is morally obliged to speak the truth at all times, not merely after stating that one will.

Following the 2008 crisis, he was named deputy prime minister, allied with Prime Minister Raila Odinga in the ODM party. However, after being locked out of the ODM presidential nomination for the 2013 vote, he left the party for the UDF, and joined the Jubilee Coalition of the TNA's Uhuru Kenyatta and the URP's William Ruto. He then abandoned that alliance after Kenyatta refused to step down his presidential aspirations in favour of Mudavadi - allegedly a breach of contract on Kenyatta's part. Mudavadi retains the title of deputy prime minister, despite leaving Odinga's party.

Mudavadi has campaigned on the issue of restructuring the judiciary to deal with corruption so as to boost economic growth and tackle poverty. He famously stated "there is no dignity in being poor" during the 2007 campaign.

He has led a task force dedicated to devolving government to regional and county administrative levels, saying that "equitable distribution of our national resources shall and will be feasible".

In addition to endorsements from former President Moi, Mudavadi has the support of the Kuria community, a small pastoralist tribe, and several elders of the Nandi community.

Paul Muite

Another of Kenya's veterans in the fight for democracy under single-party rule is Paul Muite. The 67-year-old lawyer was a protégé of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, father of Prime Minister Raila Odinga, in the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy-Kenya.

He went on to found the centre-left Safina party, which currently holds five of the 210 elected seats in parliament.

Lacking the campaign funds of the big players of this election, Muite has not been galavanting around the country in helicopters. But he has used the opportunities of the campaign to speak out against what he has called the "Balkanisation" of ethnic-based politics. He has also said that, since independence, Kenya's leaders have following the colonialist economic model favouring a small class of the wealthiest.

In addition, he has spoken out against the forthcoming trial of Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta on charges of crimes against humanity, holding Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki to blame for the 2007-08 violence, as they were the leaders of the parties at loggerheads.

A keen environmentalist, he has stated that road-building is not enough to help develop infrastructure. "For every shilling spent on the roads, rehabilitating roads, Tarmacking roads, we would spend two shillings harvesting rainwater across the entire country," he told KissTV's John Sibi Okumu.

"Almost every two to three years, you get Kenyans dying through floods. The same year, the same Kenyans are dying of hunger and drought. How come we have never invested in a comprehensive policy to harvest that rainwater?"

Muite is a long-standing advocate for the eight-hour day, instead of the current situation in which many Kenyans work extremely long hours for very little pay. Muite believes that the job market could be doubled simply by restricting the work day and enforcing existing labour laws.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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