NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 15 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga says he is confident of winning outright in the first round of the presidential election on March 4 – his third bid for the top job.
“I am very confident I’ll be able to win in the first round,” he said in an exclusive interview with AFP, saying he hoped for “free and fair elections” that will not be marred by the violence that erupted five years ago after the previous vote.
“Last time round the people felt cheated. People rioted in protest…. We do hope that with the proper safeguards this time will be different,” he said.
His optimism comes as the UN has warned of an “increase in violence” ahead of the vote.
Odinga, who has just turned 68, ran in the 1997 election, coming third after Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki, the current president.
He ran again in 2007 but his adversary Kibaki was declared the victor.
Odinga disputed the election results and Kenya sank into an unprecedented cycle of violence that left some 1,200 dead and more than 600,000 displaced.
An international mediation eventually yielded a coalition government, with Kibaki as president and Odinga as prime minister.
Despite indications that politicians in some parts of the country are sowing local ethnic or land disputes, Odinga, sporting a navy suit and glossy black shoes and sitting under a photo of himself with US President Barack Obama, said he does not expect a repeat of the violence that followed the 2007 vote.
Asked why tribalism plays such an important role in Kenyan politics, where a majority of voters cast their ballots along ethnic lines, he said the media were partly to blame for trying “to stereotype people”.
“Kenyans now see themselves as Kenyans, members of the Kenyan nation, not as representatives of various groups,” said Odinga, looking tired and drawn as his advisors bemoaned a particularly heavy schedule this week.
“There was an attempt by certain individuals accused by the ICC to try to make the elections an ICC issue. It was a futile attempt which has failed miserably”
On the walls of his suite of offices portraits of himself, his father — the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, a prominent politician — and anti-colonial rebel leader Dedan Kimathi jostle for space with the pictures that the late conservationist Joy Adamson painted of the different tribes of Kenya.