On the Stump with Kenya’s Leading Man

Start Slideshow View as a List

With a contested election in Kenya reaching a fevered pitch, the candidates are making the final rounds to shore up votes. As James Verini writes for FP, the "alpha male" of Kenyan politics is Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who brings with him the weight of family dynasty and a legacy as a mercurial democrat. Here, photojournalist Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin offers an intimate look at Odinga on the campaign trail, and at home.

Above, a Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD) -- Odinga's party -- supporter in the western city of Nakuru, where violence flared after Kenya's last election in 2007. While estimates vary, many reported more than 1,000 killed and up to 600,000 people displaced as a result of the violence that followed the contested vote.


A group of men take a moment on the sidewalk in Nairobi to catch up on the latest political happenings. According to the latest polls, Odinga is in a near dead heat with Jubilee candidate Uhuru Kenyatta.


Prime Minister Odinga (center) greets the crowd as he arrives in the town of Iten. Odinga and his running mate, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, fly to most rallies via helicopter, sometimes using three helicopters for the entire entourage. A single chopper costs roughly $29,000 per day.


While publicly rejecting attempts at an alliance with Odinga initially, in the end Musyoka (left) partned with Odinga (right) in the hopes that their ticket would be unbeatable.


His stump speech varies little from rally to rally, and in it Odinga promises better access to health care, free primary and secondary education for all, and more support to local entrepreneurs.


With few jobs and little to do, many young men show up to rallies drunk.


Here, CORD rally-goers fight over free T-shirts thrown into the crowd at Nakuru. Many are lured to rallies by small payments and the prospect of free campaign clothing given by rally organizers.


A boy helps his friend climb up Nakuru's stadium wall in order to better watch the ongoing CORD rally.


A trio of young dancers entertains the crowd in Nakuru.


A group of CORD supporters arrive at Nakuru stadium after driving through the streets to mobilize support.


"I'm here! I'm here!" shouts Odinga in Swahili as he greets a rapturous crowd in Nakuru.


Lord David Steel of Aikwood, a British politician who led the Liberal Party for 12 years, visits Prime Minister Odinga at his home in Nairobi's posh Karen neighborhood.


Friends and close advisors eat breakfast at Odinga's home.

Previous Next Close