The political contest between Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) party leader Isaac Ruto and Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok played out at a Kenya Kwanza prayer rally in the neighbouring Kericho county.
Mr Ruto was cheered by the hundreds of UDA supporters as he made a late entry into Moi gardens with a similar reception accorded to him when he rose to speak ahead of Governors - Paul Chepkwony (Kericho) and Professor Barchok.
Professor Barchok was however heckled as he temporarily lost his cool and answered the crowd back, with Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot seeking to cool down the rising political temperatures.
“We are happy that you voted for us in UDA on April, 14, 2022, and we are not ashamed to associate with the Deputy President. We will vote for UDA candidates in the impending poll……” said Professor Barchok, as his voice was trounced by the jeering as he attempted to quote a verse in the Bible.
At that point, Mr Cheruiyot picked an extra microphone, stepped forward and called on the crowd to cool down.
“Now look at you..(pointing at the crowd)… we know this game…we know where it was cooked. We will vote UDA candidates as a six-piece suit whether you like it or not…” said Professor Barchok as his voice was drowned by the jeers.
Professor Barchok was then forced to cut short his speech, in a replica of what happened to him at Bomet green stadium on January, 10 when Deputy President William Ruto attended a rally with UDA allied MPs.
Mr Ruto on the other hand took the opportunity to call on the residents to back DP Ruto for the Presidency in the race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House on August, 9, 2022.
“For us in Kenya Kwanza, we have made a promise and a covenant that we will vote for Dr Ruto for the Presidency, while allowing voters in areas where we have candidates from affiliate parties, to make their pick while having the eye on the ball (Presidency),” said Mr Ruto.
The former chairman of the Council of Governors said in Bomet, he was confident of beating Governor Barchok who is flying the UDA flag in the gubernatorial contest, in a free and fair poll.
Mr Ruto said the poor performing economy and the failure by the government to devolve resources to counties, coupled by those in charge of the devolved units to address the issues affecting the people at the grassroots in the backdrop of biting poverty and unemployed are issues that need to be fixed quickly by the next crop of leaders.
Mr Cheruiyot, who was a master of ceremony, briefly sought to cool down the political temperatures before inviting other leaders who spoke ahead of Mr Wetangula and Mr Gachagua at the rally.
“Let us not lose sight of the focus, which is to deliver the Presidency and have a majority of UDA leaders both in the Senate, National Assembly and the County Assemblies,” said Mr Cheruiyot.
The contest could be a preview of what is expected when the Kenya Kwanza team makes a tour of Bomet county for a similar session in the coming weeks, with the Deputy President said not to be keen on further muddying the waters by taking a position.
When Dr Ruto toured the region on Jan 10, he for the first time ran into a crowd that did not allow his allies to speak as the contest between Mr Ruto and Professor Barchok played out, eventually leading to his playing the master of ceremonies role – with the crowd asking him to campaign for himself and not the other candidates in his team.
Earlier on Sunday in the Kericho rally, a section of the MPs had called on the residents to vote for Dr Ruto for the Presidency, as it emerged that affiliate parties, especially ANC and CCM candidates were at the meeting.
“Voters should be left to decide who their Governors, Senators, Woman Representatives, Members of Parliament, Members of County Assembly will be at the county level. But they should deliver all their votes to Dr Ruto for the Presidency,” said Emmurua Dikirr MP Johana Ngeno, a Kanu MP who shifted to UDA recently.
When Mr Gachagua and Mr Wetungula spoke, they steered clear of the matter and addressed national issues relating to the socio-economic development in the country.
Bomet gubernatorial race will be one of the hotly contested positions in the South Rift region as the clock ticks towards the next general election.