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September 23, 2017

Uhuru’s poll campaign machinery takes shape

President Uhuru Kenyatta asks a young boy to address Nakuru residents when he and Deputy President William Ruto held a roadside meeting in the County.Photo/File
President Uhuru Kenyatta asks a young boy to address Nakuru residents when he and Deputy President William Ruto held a roadside meeting in the County.Photo/File

With 32 days to Election Day, President Uhuru Kenyatta is leaving nothing to chance to prove his win on August 8 was deserved.

His Jubilee Party's strategy is to consolidate backyards and shore up numbers ahead of the rerun on October 17, a rematch with his NASA nemesis Raila Odinga.

The fight for State House is ferocious in the first-ever presidential rerun.

Jubilee's plan involves three-pronged messaging, greater targetting of opposition strongholds, as well as guarding the vote. Safeguarding was taken for granted in August, Jubilee strategists say.

And, there's money.

The President is said to have given Jubilee MPs from select areas Sh2 million each to campaign.

Uhuru has been on message since he hit the ground on September 1, the day the Supreme Court ruled 4-2 his victory was null and void because of irregularities and illegalities.

Message 1: Raila used the court to "steal" Kenyatta's deserved victory.

Message 2: I am still President and that's why I opened Parliament on Tuesday. In 2013, MPs waited for the Supreme Court ruling and Uhuru's swearing-in before Parliament convened.

Uhuru repeatedly calls himself the legitimate President, saying Raila was just a candidate.

Message 3: I thank you. Thank-you speeches are delivered at rallies, mostly in previous opposition zones that voted for him in August. Please do it again.

Apart from messaging, Jubilee targets opposition losers who want money and jobs and are unhappy with NASA. Turncoats and mercenaries are easy to find.

"Unlike Jubilee, NASA is not in government, they face financial challenges and that's why they are fundraising," political analyst Martin Andati says. "They need money for logistics, including paying agents and buying adverts."

Uhuru reportedly is satisfied with the performance of his campaign teams in August. He believes they did their best and has left them intact as he battles a resurgent opposition determined to make him Kenya's first one-term President.

Campaign operations are being controlled from State House, a strategy hub in Caledonia estates and Jubilee's Pangani headquarters.

Secretary general Raphael Tuju has an enhanced mandate to oversee logistics.

"We are more than prepared and we shall prove President Uhuru Kenyatta won the August 8 polls overwhelmingly," Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe said.

This time, Kenyatta and DP William Ruto have decided to move across the country meeting delegations of opinion leaders and politicians at various state lodges.

Jubilee governors and those from friendly parties have been tasked to mobilise resources to supplement funding from the presidential campaign kitty.

Murang'a Governor Mwangi Wairia yesterday became the first to unveil his campaign convoy of 20 branded cars and three campaign trucks.

He also introduced the Taifa la Jubilee lobby to mobilise grassroots support.

"The caravan is headed to Nyeri county where I will engage constituents together with Nyeri Governor Wahome Gakuru," Wairia said yesterday.

Other governors are to unveil their campaigns this weekend.

But Kenyatta's main focus is Election Day and vote counting. DP Ruto is managing this aspect. Problems have been identified in tallying and transmission, among other things.

Jubilee is said to believe NASA managed to plant fake forms, which it used to argue the IEBC had failed in its mandate to manage the polls.

Ruto has instructed that all Forms 34A and 34B must be sent to the Jubilee tallying centre without delay.

It is proposed the forms be uploaded to a publicly accessible portal controlled by the party.

Jubilee is using its networks to recruit volunteers to ensure all polling stations are manned.

The opposition is said to be broke and in some areas campaigning has not begun. Raila has made a passionate public appeal for funding from millions of supporters.

The ruling party, however, is flush with cash and Uhuru can use all the machinery and trappings of incumbency. Military and police choppers are used to scour the country for votes.

Invitations to State House are used to persuade and awe delegations.

The opposition says Kenyatta is merely a caretaker President, a situation defined in law as temporary incumbency, and he is not entitled to state trappings.

xxThe party has hired a British political communications expert to improve Uhuru's image following inflammatory and confrontational rhetoric that has become part of public discourse.

The party has also zoned the country and identified specific counties where they will zero in as campaigns hit fever-pitch.

These are considered critical in determining the winner.

Uhuru's political machine will focus on Narok, Kajiado, Bungoma, Kisii, Nyamira, Machakos, Nairobi, Lamu, Kwale and Turkana counties.

MPs from these counties will be put in charge of campaign groups in their constituencies. They have been asked to form committees at each polling station to mobilise support.

Jubilee will use its governors who won in counties previously run by NASA-allied politicians.

Jubilee will rely on Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya, Lamu's Fahim Twaha, Abdi Mohamud in Wajir and Ali Mohamud in Marsabit.

A team of professionals and businessmen from Kisii and Nyamira counties will take charge of damage control following hostility crated by Uhuru's verbal attacks Chief Justice David Maraga, the three justices who voted with him to nullify Uhuru's win.

The head of state ranted for several days and called them wakora (thugs), said the judiciary was broken and promised that he would fix them when he was reelected.

Also on the strategy team are senior civil servants led by acting Interior CS Fred Matiang'i and Social Services PS Susan Mochache.

Yesterday, the President met Kisii leaders at the state lodge in Nakuru. They pledged to support him.

On Monday, Uhuru met political and opinion leaders from Kalonzo Musyoka's Ukambani backyard.

He also met leaders from Bungoma county, NASA principal Moses Wetang'ula and Musalia Mudavadi's bedrock.

"We are confident that we shall deliver Gusii votes to Jubilee, that is a no-brainer. His Excellency the President should not worry," South Mugirango JP leader Rashid Minyong'a said.

Jubilee has also rehired staff including data experts, statistical analysts and communication specialists.

As in the earlier polls, the staff has detailed data of each constituency and will collect and analyse information from the field.

The party has commissioned a popularity survey with results expected by September 28.

Raila’s opposition has enhanced the verbal onslaught against Jubilee which it has branded failed, indifferent, irredeemably corrupt and a two-tribe outfit.

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