The quest to fill the seat left vacant by the death of nominated Senator Victor Prengei is threatening to divide the Ogiek community, with different groups fronting their preferred candidates.
One faction has endorsed John Samorai Lengoisa, a resident of Eastern Mau Forest in Nakuru, while another proposes Roseline Chebet, from Kuresoi.
Senator Prengei, nominated by Jubilee, died last month in a road crash on the Nakuru-Maigat road aged 37.
The group backing Ms Chebet told reporters in Nakuru on Wednesday that she is better placed to represent the interests of the Talai and Ogiek.
Led by Talai elder Joel Rono, they said women should be given an opportunity to serve.
“According to the Constitution, the minority seat belongs to any minority group. It does not say that a specific community should take it up,” Mr Rono said.
“We as the Talai community are okay with a person from the Ogiek taking it up and we have chosen a lady this time round.”
Mr Rono, who is originally from Kericho County but now lives in Kamara, said the seat does not belong to a specific family in the minority group and is not hereditary.
“We as the Talai minority group sat down and agreed that we should leave it to the Ogiek to finish Mr Prengei’s term, but that does not mean that the person should be from the same family. Ms Chebet is known for peace missions. We will be in safe hands as a minority group,” he said.
Ms Chebet, he said, is a well-known peacekeeper ambassador when conflict arises between the two communities.
A letter from the Ogiek council of elders, which the Nation has seen, recommended Ms Chebet, saying she is one of the few successful entrepreneurs who is honest, works hard and adheres to the community’s norms and traditions.
“She has an appetite for leadership and has been exploring how to venture into positions of leadership and even tried elective politics. Ours is to recommend her for the requested and given support,” the letter says.
Supporters of Mr Lengoisa held a meeting with the family of Mr Prengei and unanimously agreed to back him.
"As elders from the Ogiek community, we have confidence in Mr Lengoisa’s capacity to fit in the shoes of the late Prengei. We are confident he will champion our rights as a minority group if nominated," Mr Sironga said.
Last week an Ogiek group endorsed Peter Cheruiyot for the Senate seat.
Mr Cheruiyot, the Jubilee Nakuru branch secretary, remains a fierce supporter of the party in the region.
Joseph Towett, who spoke on their behalf, said Mr Cheruiyot is conversant with governance and meets the legal requirements.
The name of the successful candidate will be sent to President Uhuru Kenyatta for approval. The person will serve the remaining 10 months of the term.
During the burial ceremony for Mr Prengei in Marioshoni, national leaders, including lawmakers from both Houses of Parliament, urged President Kenyatta to nominate a member of the the Ogiek, who, before Mr Prengei’s nomination, had remained unrepresented since independence.