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Africa

Kenyan politicians form election alliance

In Kenya, two prominent politicians have announced plans to join forces in a bid to secure the presidency and vice-presidency in next year's elections. Both currently face charges at the International Criminal Court.

William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta have decided they will run for the Kenyan presidency in March 2013 on a joint ticket. Ruto is a former education minister while Kenyatta has served as deputy prime minister since 2008. The two face criminal charges at the ICC in connection with the violence that marred the last elections in Kenya in 2007/8.

DW: James Shimanyula, what have these two politicians agreed?

James Shimanyula: The most interesting aspect is that they have agreed to team up so that they will be fielding one presidential candidate, while the other will be his running mate. Although they have not announced it officially, it is understood they are going to meet this coming Sunday (02.12.2012) in William Ruto's stronghold in the Rift Valley region west of Nairobi to make an official announcement to Kenyans that they are now together as one unit.

Uhuru Kenyatta (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)

Uhuru Kenyatta is the son of Kenya's founding father, Jomo Kenyatta

The announcement of their union will be officially registered by the registrar of political parties in Kenya to avoid a problem that occurred during the 2007 elections where we had politicians signing memorandums of understanding, but then when someone gets to the presidency it is ignored. This time it will be officially recorded. By December 4, 2012 all presidential candidates must make sure they have said whether they are going to run as a team or as individuals.

Is it known which one of the two is going to run for the presidency?

Right now there is no doubt that William Ruto will be the running mate, in other words he'll be going for the vice-presidency, and Uhuru Kenyatta (who is a son of Kenya's founding father Jomo Kenyatta) will be going for the post of president.

How much support do the two have and where does that support come from?

Their support comes from two very important voting areas in Kenya. One is the Rift Valley region where William Ruto is the strongman and the other is central Kenya which is Uhuru Kenyatta's stronghold and home to Kenya's largest ethnic group, the Kikuyu.

Samuel Ruto in the ICC courtroom. Photo:Bas Czerwinski/AP/dapd

William Ruto can count on the support of Kenya's Kalenjin

The Rift Valley is home to the Kalenjin, the third largest ethnic group in the country. The two areas are the strongest in Kenya. Whoever has them, can go on to become president.

How have their rivals been reacting to their alliance?

Their rivals are keeping their heads down, watching to see if some of them may join up with others. At the moment, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and other prominent figures such as Musalia Mudavadi and Kalonzo Musyoka are all fighting on their own. None has shown any sign of joining forces with others but this could change.

What do ordinary Kenyans make of this latest development?

Ordinary people are wondering.We are seeing here a clear case of what we call tribal blocs coming together. In other words, instead of people uniting as one or two fronts to contest the elections in which people belonging to Kenya's 42 ethnic groups cast their votes, we are seeing two front runners showing not only ordinary Kenyans but also the international community that the tribalism element has not been buried.

How much of a domestic political topic is the trial at the ICC in The Hague?

The trial does not prevent William Ruto or Uhura Kenyatta from contesting the presidential election. However, this coming Thursday (29.11.2012) a case is due to be heard in court here in which civil society is challenging Ruto and Kenyatta and would like them to be barred from taking part in the election because of the charges facing them in The Hague. But ordinary people think they should be allowed to stand as any other decision by the court would have the effect of igniting a flame and could create a situation reminiscent of 2007.

James Shimanyula reports for DW from Nairobi, Kenya

Interview: Mark Caldwell

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