Profile: Kenya's two leading presidential candidates   2013-03-03 18:24:53            

NAIROBI, March 3 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's general elections are scheduled to take place on Monday. Following are profiles of the two leading presidential candidates:

-- Raila Amollo Odinga, the son of Kenya's independent Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, has been an active political player in Kenya's political arena since early 1980's.

Born on Jan. 7, 1945, Odinga is a hero of second liberation campaigning on the platform of reformist politicians in Cord coalition, a coalition of 17 parties that have nominated him to contest the March 4 elections.

To his admirers, he is fondly known by various names -- Agwambo (mysterious), Tinga (tractor), Jakom (chairman) and Owadgakinyi (son of Akinyi).

Odinga, 68, has been associated with the agitation for political reforms, sometimes taking leadership of the reform process that culminated into the new constitution that Kenyans approved in a referendum in August 2010.

A mechanical engineer by profession, Odinga, who is currently the Kenyan prime minister, is seeking the presidency in a third attempt. This will cap a three-decade political career during which he has travelled on a bumpy road.

But it was not until 1992 when he joined the political arena proper when he was elected the Member for Parliament for Langata, one of the constituencies in the capital Nairobi now renamed Kibra. Those elections were the first under Kenya's reintroduced multi- party political system, that Odinga, was a key agitator for.

From a lone ranger politician to building political alliances with former President Daniel arap Moi, later President Mwai Kibaki, then divorcing acrimoniously.

In 1997, he took a stab at the presidency, coming third after President Daniel arap Moi of KANU and Kibaki, the current president of Kenya.

Then in 2007, he also offered himself for the presidency, becoming the opposition presidential candidate.

The elections were however marred by claims of rigging, forcing formation of a grand coalition government where he became the prime minister.

His political journey has however not been smooth. In 1982, Odinga was placed under house arrest for being suspected of collaborating with the plotters of a failed coup attempt against Moi.

He was later acquitted of treason charges after being detained without trial for six years.

Released on Feb. 6, 1988, he was rearrested in September 1988 for his involvement with human rights and pro-democracy activists pressing for multi-party democracy in Kenya, which was then a one- party state.

Odinga was released on June 12, 1989, only to be incarcerated again on July 5, 1990, together with Kenneth Matiba, and former Nairobi Mayor Charles Rubia. He was released on June 21, 1991, and in October, he fled the country to Norway alleging government attempts to assassinate him.

Odinga received his early education at Komulo School in Kisumu, on the shores of Lake Victoria, and then at Maranda School in his ancestral home area of Bondo.

He completed his secondary education at the Herder-Institut, Leipzig, in what was then the German Democratic Republic.

In 1965, having learned fluent German, Odinga joined the Magdeburg College of Advanced Technology, now Otto-Von-Guericke University, to study mechanical engineering. He graduated with a master's degree of science.

Odinga returned to Kenya and in May 1970 and joined the University of Nairobi, where he taught until 1974 as a tutorial fellow in the department of mechanical engineering.

When the Kenya Bureau of Standards was established in 1974, Odinga was appointment as deputy director of the bureau.

He was thus destined to become one of the most powerful among the country's second generation politicians coming from the Odinga dynasty which has dominated politics for half a century.

It is said that t he uniqueness in his political career is that he has the ability to change political parties at will, package them and popularize them over night.

He ditched Ford-Kenya party of his father, took over little known National Development Party (NDP) and used it in the first bid for presidency in 1997.

Thereafter, Moi's Kanu-NDP short-lived marriage ended in acrimonious divorce that gave birth to National Rainbow Coalition Party, which he is credited with Kibaki Tosha (is able) declaration that took President Kibaki to State House in 2002.

Sooner, he led a rebellion in Narc to humiliate the Kibaki government in a referendum to defeat the 2005 new Constitution in a campaign that produced the Orange Party.

In 2005, Odinga was dropped from the government he and campaigned for the rejection of the then draft constitution, with his coalition of like-minded politicians winning the NO vote to reject the constitution.

He then joined the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), which he is still the leader and which has teamed up with 17 other parties to form CORD coalition.

He used it to fight a bruising political campaign against Kibaki in 2007 whose disputed presidential results plunged the country into chaos forcing international community to negotiate the coalition.

Odinga has held various cabinet positions under Moi and Kibaki administrations and controls the Odinga business empire.

He has been an active member of the African Leadership Forum and has worked as a resource person - including under the auspices of the US International Republican Institute (IRI) - for training in democracy and conflict resolution in various African nations, including Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Burundi and Nigeria.

Odinga is a firm believer in welfare state as reflected in the current manifesto of the CORD Alliance.

Among the promises he has made to the electorate is to rived free universal healthcare, cash transfer for the elderly and the disabled and interest free loans to the youth.

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Editor: Yang Yi
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