William Ruto’s emergence as Kenya’s fifth president represents a paradigm shift in the country’s politics. Ruto’s campaign was comprised of a mass movement of workers, the jobless, peasants and other “hustlers” and sought to distance itself from the dynasties that have long run Kenya’s politics. While Ruto was born in a small rural village in the Rift Valley, his opponent, Raila Odinga, is a former prime minister and the son of the country’s first vice president. Marginalized Kenyans see Ruto as the personification of a transformational agenda that centers their plight, defining a contest between hustlers and dynasties. While Kenya faces a dire economic situation, Ruto’s biggest challenge may be overcoming the country’s legacy of ethnic politics and building national cohesion.
On August 15, William Ruto was declared president-elect of Kenya, following a vote last week. His chief competitor, Raila Odinga, rejected the results and says he will go to court to seek their invalidation. So far, little evidence of electoral misconduct has been presented, with most observers suggesting the conduct of the polls improved compared to the last vote in 2017. As the country waits for the judicial process to unfold, here are three takeaways from this year’s Kenyan experience.
Kenyans head to the polls on August 9 to vote for president, members of the National Assembly and Senate, and County Leadership for the country’s 47 counties. Elections are an important moment for any country, but the stakes are particularly high ahead for Kenya of Tuesday’s polls. Election violence has been a major issue in previous elections, and there are fears that this vote could spur conflict. Kenya’s next government will face significant challenges. Like many countries in the region, Kenya is suffering from a severe drought, rising debt and inflation, with food prices soaring by 15 percent in the last year. With the largest economy in East Africa, Kenya’s stability is critical for the wider region.
USIP’s Women Preventing Violent Extremism (WPVE) program aims to shape national policies and community approaches to countering violent extremism in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. USIP does this by empowering women-led organizations and building local capacity that fosters collaboration between community-level activists and national-level policymakers.
In recent years, peace processes — such as the track 2 intra-Afghan negotiations — have shown that on both a moral and practical level, women’s inclusion is essential. Women’s involvement in peace processes increases their likelihood of success and longevity and can increase legitimacy. While more literature on women contributing to mediation and negotiation efforts is slowly being produced, little attention is currently being paid to the already existing work of women who employ their faith and mobilize religious resources for peacebuilding.
Generation Change works with young leaders across the globe to foster collaboration, build resilience and strengthen capacity as they transform local communities.