Top Stories / National
Monday, 01 May 2017 16:01 EATnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.com
A political eathquake happened in the Rift Valley during the just-ended Jubilee Party nominations last week. From Kericho to Baringo to Uasin Gishu and Nandi counties, key allies of deputy president William Ruto lost nominations for parliamentary and gubernatorial positions, alarming strategists in the DP's camp.
Kericho governor Paul Chepkwony (popularly known as Timbilwet) was the biggest winner in the anti-Ruto camp. For years, the DP had been strategising on how to bring down the governor, who is reputed to be a close ally of Bomet governor Isaac Ruto who has now joined the opposition coalition NASA. The Kericho nomination was hotly-contested, and Mr Ruto favoured Ainamoi MP Benjamin Langat.
In Baringo, Benjamin Cheboi lost to Kiptis. The DP had tried to influence the race in favour of the incumbent. In January, Mr Ruto publicly directed the then leading aspirant for the Baringo gubernatorial seat, Mr Simon Chelugui, to step down for the incumbent Benjamin Cheboi. This horrified the people, and the result was the voters' adoption of Stanley Kiptis, a teachers' union official who refused to step down for Mr Cheboi.
Mr Chelugui won the senatorial nomination handily, winning 17,460 votes against his lightweight opponents Sabina Jelagat's 3,447 and Christine Ndoigo's 1,364. But the DP's key parliamentary anchors, Hellen Sambili of Mogotio and Sammy Mwaita of Baringo Central, were floored by political debutants.
Mr Mwaita managed only 5,448 votes against David Kiplagat Kipkerich's 17,800. The MP had no choice but congratulate his opponent as the results were being announced. Ms Sambili, a former cabinet minister, received only 6,015 votes compared to Dr Daniel Tutoek's 11,994 votes, forcing her into retirement from politics.
However, the main battlefront was the North Rift, where Uasin Gishu governor Jackson Mandago, Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter, Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi and President Uhuru Kenyatta's political advisor Joshua Kuttuny won against politicians backed by the DP. The four leaders left no secret about their partnership against the Ruto-backed candidates during their campaigns.
Mr Mandago pulled the surprise of the year, winning against Bundotich Kiprop (Buzeki). But it was an open appeal to tribe, founded on powerful propaganda suggesting that the Nandi community which is dominant in the county was politically “under siege”. He trounced Buzeki by consistently whipping up tribal emotions that would box all Nandis inhabiting the cosmopolitan county into rallying their support behind him. With the win, Governor Mandago has risen as the main leader of the Nandi community.
In Nandi Hills, fiery MP Keter defeated the DP’s director of communications Emmanuel Tallam, a former journalist whose campaign was well-oiled by raising questions as to the source of the former journalist's sudden wealth. The former KTN reporter has built a shopping mall in Eldoret valued at more than Sh100 million and lives a luxurious lifestyle that Mr Keter says is not commensurate with his legitimate income. Questioning the wealth of Mr Talam, who works in the DP's office, was akin to passing judgment on the DP's own credibility as a leader.
In Cherangany constituency, Mr Kuttuny bounced back for the seat he lost in 2013 when he convincingly beat incumbent, marathoner Wesley Korir. The general election is expected to be a walkover for the Jubilee Party candidate. In Kapseret, Mr Sudi won nomination against a well-oiled campaign by a leading social media vocalist for the DP, Steve Kewa.
These losses have cemented the perception that Mr Ruto's hold on the Kalenjin community vote is under siege. "If the Isaac Ruto camp can gain traction in the South Rift, NASA would find it more easy penetrating the Kalenjin vote than many people can fathom at the moment," said political analyst Brian Kiptoo.