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Friday, July 28, 2017

Uhuru, Raila blow billions of shillings in record 850 rallies

President Uhuru Kenyatta and DP William Ruto at a rally in Mariakani, Kilifi county, yesterday. /DANIEL ONYANCHA/DPPS
President Uhuru Kenyatta and DP William Ruto at a rally in Mariakani, Kilifi county, yesterday. /DANIEL ONYANCHA/DPPS

D-Day is just three weeks off and President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition chief Raila Odinga have blown untold billions on 850 rallies in 50 days.

But who's counting? The sky's the limit in Kenya's most expensive, high-stakes election.

The two protagonists and everyone else are splashing money with abandon since Parliament suspended campaign spending caps and all regulations on declared bank accounts, transparency and accountability — that's for 2022.

Uhuru has held 400 rallies and Raila 450 since the IEBC cleared them to run for President on May 29.

And there will likely be hundreds more before the August 8 General Election — 20 days off — to win over 19.6 million eligible voters. About eight million are said to be undecided.

Both the opposition and Jubilee are racing against time to cover areas where they have not campaigned as the battle for 19.6 million eligible voters intensifies.

As the close contest becomes closer, details of campaign financing are closely guarded but the massive spending is palpable.

Money has been poured into technology, strategy, internal polling, office space, salaries, expat and foreign experts. Logistics includes purchase and hire of helicopters and vehicles, as well a transport and accommodation for campaign teams. Some has also gone to branding and buying merchandise like T-shirts.

Rallies and road shows cost money.

In the 2013 general election, it is estimated more than Sh50 billion was splashed by the presidential candidates. No one knows for sure.

The Coalition for Accountable Political Financing estimated that in 2007, the two front runners, Mwai Kibaki and Raila, each spent Sh7 billion that was traceable on campaigning.

They spent billions more in branding, transport, support for other candidates and numerous untraceable expenses.

Yesterday, Raila yesterday stormed Homa Bay county to consolidate his turf, exactly five days after Uhuru's visit. A well-oiled NASA brigade landed in the populous county and split into three groups, each led by one of the five principals.

The Raila team flew in choppers to Mbita grounds, Magunga grounds and Ndigwa before they converged at Homa Bay stadium for a mega rally.

Although he has cut down on campaign merchandise that usually takes a huge chunk of campaign cash, the former Prime Minister has invested heavily in personnel, bringing on board more high-end technocrats than ever witnessed in a campaign.

Expatriates from Germany, Ghana and the US are bolstering his technical team.

For the first time, Raila's campaign is driven by research. Advance teams gather information on a range of issues and urgent problems requiring urgent solutions.

The information is analysed and packaged in Raila's key messages during the campaign blitz.

Raila is also spending a fortune on what he calls vote-protection machinery. He is putting in place a hi-tech tallying centre and acquiring 41,000 mobile phones — one for each agent in the 41,000 polling stations, where they will independently transmit results.

Yesterday, Raila narrowed his message to turnout, saying every vote must be cast.

“We will only be 10 million strong if you turn up and vote,” Raila said in Kendu Bay yesterday.

President Kenyatta is bolstered by all the trappings of incumbency, the police, the military and the presidential bully pulpit. He has bottomless pockets and is running an expensive re-election campaign.

His Jubilee Party has contracted a Chinese company to print millions of branded campaign items, including T-shirts, scarfs and caps.

Uhuru has hired Cambridge Analytica, a UK-based data mining company that only works for the affluent, including Donald Trump, then candidate for US President.

Uhuru travels in a large convoy of SUVs as well as an elaborate advance.

State House yesterday released the President’s campaign schedule, a blitz taking him to 14 counties in the next one week as he races to cover the country.

Kenyatta, who flew into Mombasa on Sunday, has meet-the-people gatherings planned for three days in Kilifi, Mombasa, Lamu, Kwale, Tana River and Taita Taveta.

Campaigning in Lamu and Tana River counties yesterday, the President urged residents to reelect him "to entrench the transformational foundation I have laid in my first term.”

Today Kenyatta will be in Kwale where his administration says it has has invested huge resources in dam and road construction, installed modern medical equipment and increased household electricity connections.

The President ends his regional tour on Wednesday by visiting Taita Taveta.

On Thursday he flies to Elgeyo Marakwet for the funeral of former Cabinet minister Nicholas Biwott.

Then it's off to Nairobi before heading north to Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit, Isiolo and Samburu counties.

Yesterday NASA secretariat CEO Norman Magaya told the Star that the opposition will campaign in every region because every vote counts.

"There are places we have not visited but we will visit in the next seven days. We will visit each and every county, notwithstanding political intolerance from some areas," he said.

Raila's political communications adviser Salim Lone says scientific research is used to determine which areas to visit for maximum impact.

"It is important to get figures and strategy right. We choose where to get maximum results, as opposed to just campaigning. However, will will visit all parts of the country," Lone said.

Uhuru is fighting off an an onslaught by an opposition determined to make him Kenya's first one-term President.

Raila, 72, is making a fourth run for State House, with the understanding he will be a one-term President, backing another opposition candidate in 2022.

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