The battle lines are now drawn for the General Election of March 4 after Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta was endorsed as presidential candidate for the Jubilee Coalition.
Mr Kenyatta’s nomination at the Kasarani stadium in Nairobi came just a day after Prime Minister Raila Odinga was endorsed to head the ticket of the rival Coalition for Democracy (Cord) alliance.
The stage is now set for the son of Kenya’s founding father, President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, to face-off with the son of the country’s first Vice-President and pioneer opposition leader, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.
After accepting his nomination, Mr Kenyatta formally announced that United Republican Party leader William Ruto would be his running mate.
Mr Odinga will be paired with Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka for Deputy President.
Mr Kenyatta and Ruto were formally confirmed before an excited crowd at the Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani’s indoor gymnasium where they unveiled a campaign platform that will focus on generation-change to youthful leadership “looking towards the future rather than dwelling on the past”.
Speeches at the function largely avoided the predicament facing the pair, who face charges at the International Criminal Court next April, just a month after the elections and within the period set aside for a run-off in case there is no outright winner in the first round of the presidential election.
Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto used the occasion on Sunday to announce that they had just formally defected from their sponsoring parties, Kanu and ODM, to respectively join TNA and URP. They will thus be relinquishing their parliamentary seats in the coming week.
Water minister Charity Ngilu of the National Rainbow Coalition was also introduced as a member of the Jubilee coalition alongside Mvita MP Najib Balala who heads the Republican Congress Party.
Ms Ngilu was not in the race for the coalition presidential ticket as earlier indicated, but was introduced by Mr Ruto as the designed Senate majority leader.
The announcement meant that Ngilu will now run for the Kitui County senatorial seat where he will be facing off with Mr David Musila, a close ally of Mr Musyoka who has since joined Cord.
Though the entire Jubilee line-up was not unveiled, the leaders had earlier entered Kasarani in style.
Addressing a cheerful crowd that comprised more than 3,000 delegates from across the country including more than 100 MPs from the two main coalition partners and their affiliates, Mr Kenyatta pledged to establish a government anchored on unity, peace and economic development.
“My fellow delegates, I’m happy to accept your nomination and I want to tell my fellow Kenyans that this country needs a leadership generation that can implement reforms,” he said.
Mr Kenyatta called on the 14.3 million Kenyans now listed as voters to turn out in large numbers on the election day to decide who will rule Kenya.
He asked his supporters not to engage in blame game with their opponents and appealed to the coalition members to ensure a six-piece election for all the Jubilee candidates in the March 4 elections.
“The priority of my government is first to unite Kenyans, bring peace, and to jump-start our economy,” Mr Kenyatta told his supporters.
He went on: “We have now left the harbour. We are now on seas. We shall arrive and propel the ship to safe harbour for all our prosperity.”
Mr Ruto, who addressed the delegates just after Mr Kenyatta, said Kenyans should ignore the “elderly” leaders in the Cord alliance.
Declared Mr Ruto: “The people in the other coalition should be assembling their wares so they can go into retirement because next year the government will be ours”
He promised that next administration would deal with hunger by expanding farming in idle arable land he said was estimated to be more than 2.5 million acres around the country.
Ms Ngilu asked Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto to sign an agreement that they would prioritise her party agenda of food production, provision of water, women empowerment and employment creation.
“I have decided to support Mr Kenyatta because he has agreed to prioritise five key issues affecting the country,” the Water minister said.
Earlier, the coalition’s key leaders entered the conference hall amidst cheers from the delegates starting with Cabinet Minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere, Mr Balala, Ms Ngilu, Mr Ruto and finally Mr Kenyatta.
Speakers were also carefully assembled and paraded to display regional diversity.
An interesting speaker to be paraded was Mr Odinga’s step-brother Omondi Oginga, who castigated the Prime Minister as a failure who could not be trusted with national leadership.
“I am Jaramogi’s son. This means that I’m the Prime Minister’s brother and I have shifted from that side to this side. Now what are you still doing there?” he posed.
More than 13 Cabinet ministers, among them Mr Katoo ole Metito, Mr Yusuf Haji, Mr Joseph Nyaga, Mr Samuel Poghisio, Dr Naomi Shaban, and Mrs Beth Mugo, addressed the delegates.
Mr Ruto’s lawyer, Prof Kithure Kindiki, also spoke at the event, giving an assurance that there was no need to panic over the International Criminal cases as a proper legal strategy was in place to ensure the two accused won.