With less than six months before the August 9 General Election, the race for Laikipia County senator is shaping up as a battle of titans.
More aspirants are throwing their hats into the ring, with the race becoming a contest between Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja.
While several hopefuls, among them ex-Mungiki leader Maina Njenga, already have hit the ground running, others have deployed their foot soldiers with goodies to rally support from the electorate.
On Monday, Mr Njenga launched his second stab at the seat, having lost to Jubilee’s John Kinyua in 2017.
In the 2017 General Election, Mr Njenga’s nomination papers were controversially rejected by the ruling party, prompting him to ditch Jubilee and vie on Kanu.
Mr Kinyua garnered 145,150 votes against Mr Njenga’s 53,177. But he alleged the electoral process was doctored to give his competitor outright victory.
Mr Njenga, who will run on a Kanu ticket, will face Senator Kinyua, an ally of DP Ruto who will defend the seat on a UDA ticket.
Other aspirants are former Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Mwangi Thuita (Jubilee), who in 2017 vied for the Laikipia governor’s seat but lost in the primaries, John Kiama (TSP), Henry Kimani (UDA) and Jane Ptunoi (UDA).
Both Mr Kimani and Ms Ptunoi served as Finance and Trade executives, respectively, in former Laikipia governor Joshua Irungu's administration.
While Mr Njenga seems to enjoy the support of Mr Odinga and Kanu chairman Gideon Moi, Senator Kinyua has the backing of DP Ruto.
On the other side, Mr Kiama is a close ally of former Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri, with the latter said to be funding his campaign.
On Monday, two sons of Dr Oburu Oginga, a member of the East Africa Legislative Assembly, attended an event in Rumuruti where Mr Njenga launched his campaign.
The two, Elijah Oburu and Jaoko Oburu, endorsed Mr Njenga for the seat, saying Laikipians should expect better security in the region if he is elected senator and Mr Odinga is elected President in August.
“It is a shame that 50 years since Kenya became independent, residents of Laikipia have never known peace but this will change if Maina Njenga and Raila Odinga are elected in August,” Mr Elijah Oburu said.
He said it was the wish of the ODM leader’s family that Jubilee not field a Senate candidate in Laikipia so as to allow Mr Njenga to clinch it.
Mr Njenga also received a boost after James Githiri, a political adviser to Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi, dropped his bid for the seat in Mr Njenga’s favour.
Mr Githiri, who vied for the Senate seat in 2017 and was planning to do so again on a PNU ticket, said he had put aside his ambitions and would support Mr Njenga.
Addressing his supporters, Mr Njenga said he would have a seven-pillar vision for the county to address perennial insecurity, among other issues.
“I will work to bring together all communities living in Laikipia and come up with a lasting solution to perennial bandit attacks. Peace in Laikipia can only be realised if the communities agree to live in peace and solve issues without resulting in enmity,” he said.
Mr Njenga also promised to push for the reinstatement of the National Police Reservists in the county if elected.