Top Stories / 2017 Elections
Monday, 18 Jul 2016 20:36 EATcmutai@kenyafreepress.com
Deputy President William Ruto's visit to Baringo County last Friday was marked by coordinated protests that signify a new boldness by the DP's critics from the region.
After braving rebellion from leaders in the South Rift counties of Kericho and Bomet for much of the last two years, Ruto, the undisputed Kalenjin political kingpin, may need more armour in his chest to deal with the brewing unrest in Baringo.
Being the backyard of the Moi family, Baringo County carries significant stakes for Ruto and Gideon Moi, the former president's son who successfully braved the pro-Ruto wave that swept the Kalenjin community in 2013 and won the local Senate seat on a Kanu ticket.
The younger Moi has tried for three years to harness an anti-Ruto coalition in the region without much success. His latest loss in a battle with Ruto came during the Kericho senatorial by-election in March, when the Ruto-backed candidate, Aaron Cheruiyot, beat Kanu's Paul Sang with a big margin.
The by-election saw Ruto's base of support crystallize further in the region, with formerly rebellious leaders like the Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony and even Bomet's Isaac Ruto formulating a new working alliance with the DP.
Alienated from the region's mainstream, Gideon Moi has been forced in recent months to strike opportunistic partnership with the opposition coalition CORD, in order to leverage Kanu's programmes on the national stage.
Ruto's visit at Tangulbei, Barwesa and Marigat were disrupted by demonstrators who had converged at Kabartonjo in Baringo North to express their grievances against what they termed neglect and oppression by the Jubilee administration.
Anti-riot Police had to disperse the crowds before the deputy president's arrival in the areas. The police claimed they had not been notified of the intended demo and thus had to break it as it was an unlawful assembly.
The residents are disgruntled over what they claim to be political alienation of the area by the ruling coalition. According to the demonstrators, Jubilee leaders have sidelined professionals from Baringo in top public appointments and development projects and has failed to fulfill the promises they made during their campaigns in the region.
They also accused the government of sacking senior civil servants from the area, citing the cases of former Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) managing director Yatich Kangugo, who was replaced by a Norwegian expat, and retired Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo, who was unceremoniously removed from his position as KAA chairman, his place taken by retired General Julius Karangi.
The demonstrators slammed their Member of Parliament, Hon. William Cheptumo, among other local leaders whom they accused of keeping mum as his residents were unfavorably treated by the ruling coalition.
“Why is it that our leaders especially Cheptumo are keeping quiet about this issue?” Eric Bett, former Postal Kenya director who was among the demonstrators, asked.
Bett called on the legislator to resign following his continuous support of the government which he claimed had sidelined the people of Baringo County in major government appointments demanding that Mr Kangugo be reinstated to his former working position.
Baringo North parliamentary hopeful, Sammy Chelang’a who is the KUPPET National secretary (tertiary education) accused security agencies of using too much force in dispersing the crowd, adding that it is unfortunate that the people of Baringo North are still crying of the same problems four years after voting for the Jubilee administration.
Pro-Ruto leaders on the VP's entourage countered the demonstrators, claiming that they had been paid by KANU and CORD leaders. They accused Bett, who lost to Cheptumo in the last election, of trying to destabilise the ruling coalition.
Ruto himself made more promises to the residents on development projects. He said the government had set aside Sh700 million for rural electrification in the county and the state will establish 30 milk processing plants across the county.
In his visit, Ruto was accompanied by Baringo South MPs Grace Kipchoim (county women rep), Asman Kamama (Tiaty), Sammy Mwaita (Baringo Central), and Kericho senator Aaron Cheruiyot among other leaders.
Jubilee has been fighting to eviscerate Kanu's support base in Baringo. The battle has evolved since the last election, with Kanu recently rejecting the proposal by Jubilee officials to have all affiliate parties dissolve.
Some analysts see Kanu's rebellion as a red flag to the ruling coalition that there are pertinent issues as the Jubilee Alliance Party is set to launch ahead of next year’s elections, noting that the region is not a guaranteed stronghold in the next elections.
According to James Sumukwo, a resident of Barwesa in Baringo North, the people of Baringo North are now enlightened of their rights and they will vote for the right leaders come the next elections.
The writer is a student of journalism at the Technical University of Kenya and intern writer at the Kenya Free Press, specializing in politics, sports, agribusiness and international affairs.