The Uasin Gishu governor seat is shaping up as a two-horse race between the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) nominee Jonathan Bii Chelilim alias Koti Moja and independent candidate Bundotich Zedekiah Kiprop alias Buzeki.
But the political matrix for the seat has been complicated by the entry of United Democratic Movement’s William Kemboi Kirwa.
Koti Moja floored his close rival, Kenya’s ambassador to Pakistan Julius Bitok by garnering 71,152 votes against the latter’s 59,001 votes in the UDA primaries to face Mr Buzeki who mounted a well-oiled campaign in 2017 against Governor Jackson Mandago.
Buzeki lost to Governor Mandago with 82,869 votes against Mr Mandago’s 126,681 in the Jubilee Party primaries. He contested in the main poll, garnering an impressive 148,121 votes against Mr Mandago’s 193,604.
There are 530,993 registered voters across the county’s six constituencies. According to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) register, Turbo constituency has 110, 851 voters, Soy (81,867), Moiben (68,822), Ainabkoi (54,797), Kapsaret (66,582) and Kesses (67,136).
Ahead of the 2013 election, the Nandi and Keiyo communities in the county entered into a gentleman’s agreement – the governor was to come from the Nandi community and the deputy from Keiyo. This agreement was maintained in the 2017 polls.
According to a number of Keiyo leaders, the Nandis were to support a Keiyo to replace Mr Mandago who is now eyeing the Senate seat, but this has been rejected by a section of Nandi leaders.
“Whoever wants to be a governor must get the community’s (Nandi) endorsement since the position is very pivotal to them,” said Mr Caleb Kositany in an earlier interview. The Soy MP, who was gunning for the seat, was floored in the UDA primaries.
Ethnic calculations and party loyalty have proved to be major factors in the previous elections and it is expected to be the same in the August polls, despite appeals to the electorate to only vote for leaders who can effectively articulate their issues.
“The electorate should reject tribal chauvinists and vote in development oriented leaders. We value peaceful co-existence and there is nothing like being a Nandi, Keiyo, Marakwet or any other ethnic community when it comes to electing leaders,” said David Koros, a human rights activist.
Mr Buzeki has unveiled his strategy on how to spur economic growth in an effort to win votes from farmers, entrepreneurs and the youth.
On agriculture, Buzeki has promised to undertake dairy transformation through, among others, improvement and funding of the Chebororwa agriculture training centre and setting up a research centre for dairy breeding and management. He also plans to support farmers’ cooperative societies through provision of loans and improving governance through hiring of competent managers.
In the grain sector, he promises to establish grain marketing boards to seek international markets and facilitate direct grain shipment as well as support and expedite grain growers’ associations to source for inputs and other farming requirements cheaply.
To stimulate the huge potential in horticulture, Mr Buzeki has promised to encourage county horticulture products zoning and ensure each zone gets products that works well for them.
“Local and international investors will be encouraged to venture in large scale horticulture and floriculture to creating employment and promote irrigation farming through construction of water dams and extension of piped water besides use of greenhouse technology,” said Mr Buzeki.
On the social scene, Mr Buzeki plans to strengthen primary health care by establishing a fully operational ward in each health centre with adequate staff, laboratory, pharmacy and a dedicated ambulance.
He has also promises to complete and operationalise sub-county hospitals fully kitted to handle referrals from health facilities, and ensure constant supply of medical supplies in all the health facilities. He also plans to identify and documenting the vulnerable for enrolment in the National Health Insurance Fund.
Mr Bii, on the other hand, wants an administration that will be fair and equitable.
“Each and every resident of Uasin Gishu County with proper qualifications will be subjected to a fair hiring process,” he said at a rally. “On matters of employment, Uasin Gishu County will be an equal opportunity employer,” he said.
Mr Bii has also promised to revitalise the agriculture sector, promote trade, tourism and sporting activities to woo local and foreign investors.
“Agriculture being backbone of our county, I will prioritise it through value addition by operationalising milling plants to package maize and wheat flour,” said Mr Bii.
In the social sector, he plans to upgrade and modernise Uasin Gishu County Hospital, create ICT hubs in sub-county and ward offices and have county Huduma centres.
Mr Kirwa’s entry into the race complicates the tribal equation in the county.
In his seven-point manifesto, Mr Kirwa outlines access to county resources, promotion of social responsibility, empowerment for opportunities, sports tourism, network for trade investment, strong and well equipped county leadership and accountable stewardship as his focus points to transform the developed unit if elected.
“The electorate will vote for me because of my development agenda and plans to improve their living standards,” said Buzeki.
He attributes his loss in the 2017 elections to calls for negotiated democracy and a last minute shift in vote patterns after minority communities allied to the then National Super Alliance (Nasa) campaigned against him.
“Unlike the previous contests where there was negotiated democracy, electorates will make the right decision by voting in leaders of their choice,” said Buzeki who will pick his running mate from Turbo constituency.
The businessman is viewed as a compromise candidate who will give Mr Bii and the UDA brigade a run for their money, going by the overwhelming support from his Keiyo community and others.
“As much as it is the democratic right of eligible persons to seek any elective positions, fielding of more than candidate from one community for the same position risks splitting votes to the advantage of competitors from other communities,” says Mr John Yego, a Kalenjin elder. This could be in reference to Mr Kirwa who is seen as likely to split the Nandi vote.
The Myoot Council of Elders has called for unity among the Kalenjin as the succession race gains momentum.
“What is paramount is our unity as a community irrespective of the sub-tribes,” said the Major (Rtd) John Seii.
The council was instrumental in sharing of elective positions, including that of the governor, senator and MPs in the 2017 General Election. This saw Mr Mandago, Prof Margaret Kamar (senator) and Gladys Sholei (woman rep) retain their positions.
But some leaders are opposed to any power sharing scheme and want democracy to prevail, allowing the electorate to choose their preferred representatives in the August election.
Tomorrow: Race to succeed two-term Governor Okoth Obado in Migori County