Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said his party had joined an opposition coalition ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections in August in a bid to cleanse politics of “crooks”.
The announcement came after Kenyatta’s designated successor, William Ruto, who wants to run for president, was sacked from the ruling Jubilee party.
“I heard someone say that there is nowhere in the world where a government unites with the opposition and supports it,” Kenyatta said, announcing that Jubilee was joining the Azimio la Umoja (Quest for Unity) led by veteran opposition member Raila Odinga.
“Kenya will be the example, we are mature enough to distinguish between politics and the needs of the people.
East Africa’s powerhouse has traditionally been led by presidents from the dominant Kikuyu tribe like Kenyatta or the Kalenjin tribe like Ruto.
This year’s contest is shaping up to be a two-horse race between Ruto and Raila, a stalwart of Kenyan Luo community politics.
Ruto was initially nominated by Kenyatta as his successor but found himself sidelined after arch-enemies Kenyatta and Odinga announced a truce in 2018.
“We seek to create a movement that will deliver the country,” Kenyatta said.
The Azimio la Umoja coalition is expected to choose its preferred presidential candidate in two weeks.
But many observers say Odinga’s appointment is inevitable.
“We are here to restore the soul and secure the future of our people,” Odinga said.
“If we stay united, I’m sure nothing will defeat us.
The 77-year-old former political prisoner and prime minister will then likely head to the polls without his usual fiery anti-establishment image.
Kenyatta, for his part, said the coalition will “discuss and choose a strongman to face the crooks on the other side.”
With its diverse population and ethnic electoral blocs, elections in Kenya have often been marred by violence.
More than 1,100 Kenyans lost their lives in 2007 when a disputed election result sparked tribal violence.
The rapprochement between Odinga and Kenyatta came after post-election fighting in 2017 left dozens dead.
The couple tried unsuccessfully to introduce sweeping constitutional changes as a way to end repeated cycles of election violence.
Reforms known as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) proposed expanding the executive and parliament to distribute the spoils of victory more evenly.
It was seen by critics as a way to allow Kenyatta, a two-term president who cannot run for a third party, to stay in power by appointing the prime minister.
The government has appealed a court ruling that rejected the proposals and said Kenyatta could even be prosecuted in civil court for initiating the process.
Kenya’s ruling party joins coalition for presidential bid