Sabaot elders in Mt Elgon have clashed on who to pick as Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka’s running mate in his bid to recapture the Bungoma governor’s seat.
Two factions – the Sabaot Council of Elders and the Sabaot Supreme Council of Elders – clashed at the weekend on proposed names, with each side fronting its preferred candidates.
The Sabaot Council of Elders held a meeting at Cheptais market and settled on four names out of the eight who are interested in the DG's seat.
The Sabaot Supreme Council of Elders, meanwhile, held a separate meeting at Kapsokwony and selected Mr Hillary Chongwony, Mr Lusaka’s former deputy as his running mate in the August elections.
The latter said they were following the Mabanga Peace Accord of 2013 between the Bukusu and the Sabaot living in Bungoma under which they two sub-tribes agreed on a power-sharing arrangement for the top county seats.
The Sabaot are a sub-tribe of the Kalenjin community residing around Mt Elgon while the Bukusu are a sub-tribe of the Luhya community.
The Sabaot Council of Elders has not revealed the names of the four proposed names but promised that they will ensure that the issue is not allowed to split the community.
They said the names will be forwarded to Mr Lusaka, who will pick his preferred deputy, meaning the former Bungoma governor now has five names from the community to pick from.
Sabaot Council of Elders chairman Stephen Musani confirmed that they had settled on four names picked from the four divisions of Kaptama, Kapsokwony, Kopsiro and Cheptais.
"This is to enable us to stop divisions among our sons and daughters. We are also asking our incoming governor, Ken Lusaka, to consider those who won’t make it for other positions in his government," Mr Musani said.
He added: "All of them have leadership qualities and are well educated but, unfortunately, only one of them will be picked to deputise Mr Lusaka. Therefore, let him consider the rest (for other positions).”
The opposing Sabaot Supreme Council of Elders, however, dismissed their rival’s resolution and said they had settled on Mr Chongwony from Kaptama to be Lusaka's running mate.
Addressing the media at Kapsokwony market after a six-hour consultative meeting, council vice-chairperson Johnson Takur confirmed that they had chosen Mr Chongwony, who they said was the right person for the job.
"We saw how Mr Chongwony worked closely with Mr Lusaka during his first tenure and we want them to come back and continue with their good development work," he said.
Mr Takur, who was sitting in for chairman Reuben Butaki, said the council will present his name to Mr Lusaka.
"We have talked to Mr Lusaka and he said that he worked extremely well with Mr Chongwony and he had no problem going with him to the ballot again,” Mr Takur said.
"Mr Lusaka did so much development here in Mt Elgon by building roads and the High Altitude Training Centre, as well as employing many of our sons and daughters, unlike Mr (Wycliffe) Wangamati, who has sidelined us in his government."
Mr Chongwony, a former teacher, was Mr Lusaka's deputy from 2013 to 2017, when the latter lost the seat to Mr Wangamati.
Mr Wangamati, who has been accused by the Sabaot of sidelining them, picked his deputy, Prof Charles Ngome, from the minority Tachoni tribe in Webuye East constituency.
Eight members of the Sabaot sub-tribe had expressed interest in deputising Mr Lusaka, who will vie under Ford Kenya.
Others interested in the seat include educationist John Shikuku, Mokin Tanguny, Janepher Mbatiany, Bonface Chengek, and high school Principal Nicholas Kiboi.
Some Sabaot elders had proposed a debate to be held in Kitale, Trans Nzoia County, to pick the right candidate for the running mate position.
Mr Lusaka formally launched his campaigns for the seat recently, after officially joining Senator Moses Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya party, effectively joining the Kenya Kwanza bandwagon.
Mr Musani said that for the sake of peaceful coexistence, the issue of picking a running mate has been handled by elders, who are mandated to give their community political direction.
He criticised a meeting that had been scheduled to take place in Kitale where potential running mates for Mr Lusaka were to be interviewed.
"I am asking the Supreme Council of Elders chairman, Mr Reuben Butaki, to stop causing confusion in Mt Elgon. Elders are wise people who should give directions and not play divisive politics," Mr Musani said.
He urged Bungoma residents to play mature politics.