By George Obulutsa
NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s president said on Tuesday he would seek re-election next year and transform his coalition of small parties into one party to shore up his power base, a move aimed at seeing off another likely challenge by the opposition leader.
President Uhuru Kenyatta narrowly won election in 2013 in east Africa’s biggest economy. At the time, he and deputy William Ruto faced international prosecution for crimes against humanity over deadly violence after 2007’s disputed election but the charges – which they denied – were later dropped.
Kenyatta – a member of one of Kenya’s richest families and the son of its first president – said he would launch the Jubilee Party, merging his National Alliance with Ruto’s National Republican Party and at least 10 other coalition parties, in a month’s time.
The move anticipates another potential face-off with opposition leader Raila Odinga, expected to be the main opposition challenger as he was in the votes of 2013 and 2007.
“I am staking my legacy on political unity and stability,” Kenyatta said in a nationally televised address.
Odinga told a media conference that he was “not scared” by the new party. His Coalition for Reforms and Democracy is made up of a number of smaller political parties.
“I have gone around the country and met citizens who are dissatisfied with Jubilee. They will show that at the ballot,” said Odinga.
The next presidential and parliamentary elections will be held on Aug. 8 next year.
Kenyatta and Ruto were accused by the International Criminal Court of fomenting violence that killed 1,200 people in the aftermath of the 2007 election. Both denied wrongdoing and the Hague-based court abandoned the case last year.
Analysts said Kenyatta’s new party was typical of political realignments seen in Kenya before every election.
“People who are like-minded are coming together to give a new vehicle to the president and his deputy,” Macharia Munene, professor of international relations at USIU-Africa, said.
(Additional reporting by Humphrey Malalo; editing by James Macharia and Mark Heinrich)