Top Stories / 2017 Elections
Wednesday, 26 Oct 2016 12:24 EATnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.com
The supremacy battles between Deputy President William Ruto's Jubilee Party and Senator Gideon Moi's Kanu in Baringo County have started taking shape as local leaders vie for space ahead of next year's elections. For the past week, Baringo has been the theatre of an all-out war between Governor Benjamin Cheboi and West Pokot Senator John Lonyangapuo. The tribal clashes in Elgeyo Marakwet have fused sharply into an evolving narrative where anti-Ruto leaders are using the escalating insecurity in the region as a sign of Mr Ruto's and the Jubilee government's failures.
The governor, who is in Jubilee, accuses Prof. Lonyangapuo and former Information Minister Samuel Poghisio, who are Kanu members, of inciting the sizeable Pokot minority in Baringo against the county government he leads. Mr Cheboi this week warned the two "to cease interfering" with politics of Tiaty constituency in Baringo County which is mainly inhabited by Pokots.
The governor says the two politicians "should concentrate on West Pokot County" and keep off Baringo politics, where the Pokot ethnic group has a large presence in Tiaty. “Why should they bother much about politics in some other people's counties and yet they are not interested in any political seat from here?" the governor posed, claiming the two leaders were "inciting the people of Baringo against their leaders".
The governor's assertions about incitement carried emotive symbols as members of the Pokot tribe have been engaged in ethnic clashes with the Marakwets in the neighbouring Elgeyo Marakwet County for the last several weeks. Mr Cheboi said the clashes between the Pokot and neighbouring communities were being escalated by their leaders' utterances. He, however, engaged in his own incendiary rhetoric, calling the two Pokot leaders "outsiders" and "foreigners" who were not welcome in Baringo County.
The remarks went down badly with Prof. Lonyangapuo who has been touring Baringo County in the last week, in an effort, he says, to quell the ongoing inter-community clashes along Kerio Valley among the Pokot, Tugen and Marakwet communities. “I am playing the role that belongs to the ‘sleepy’ leaders of these two counties who have failed to beef up security between the warring communities; they should be told that I have no political interest whatsoever apart from preaching peace among the people,” said Prof. Lonyangapuo, who last week led peace meetings with Marakwet and Pokot elders along the Baringo and Elgeyo/Marakwet border.
Prof. Lonyangapuo says the meetings were boycotted by leaders from Baringo including Governor Cheboi, Tiaty MP Asman Kamama and the entire county security establishment. The senator's meetings were deemed as Kanu political campaigns by the government-allied leaders, hence their absence.
At the meetings, he urged Governor Cheboi to consider ditching Jubilee for KANU if the latter hoped to retain his seat in the next elections. While he claimed that Jubilee leaders were plotting to undercut Governor Cheboi at the nomination stage, it is understood that the senator was leading a campaign strategy to demarcate Baringo County into camps that would give Kanu headway in the elections as his party leader Gideon Moi plans his own re-election.
“Cheboi should not sit comfortably in Jubilee dreaming that he will receive direct nomination. As my good friend I take this early moment to advise him that he should start sourcing for a party, and Kanu is ready to welcome him home," the senator said, and warned that Baringo and West Pokot would be 'Kanu zones' in 2017.
Prof. Lonyangapuo, who has recently been crowned Pokot political spokesman, is in a do-or-die battle against the West Pokot governor Simon Kachapin, a Kanu member who has since decamped to Jubilee.
With Mr Kachapin banking on the support of DP Ruto, Prof Lonyangapuo has joined forces with Mr Poghisio, and are fashioning an alliance they say will provide the political direction for Pokots in West Pokot and beyond.
The Pokots are a decisive swing vote in Baringo County politics, and their main leader there, Mr Kamama, is an ally of DP Ruto.