Less than two months before the August 9 General Election, the two leading presidential candidates – Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga – are making inroads in Samburu County as they try to lure its swing vote.
As the clock ticks, the country’s electoral map is getting clearer for the two bigwigs, with some regions, among them Samburu, shaping up into battlegrounds that will determine who becomes the next President.
The Ruto and Raila teams have so far made two trips each to the region within two months, tearing into each other as they woo voters.
According to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) revised register, Samburu has 98,081 voters.
The latest opinion poll by Infotrak shows that there are about 10 closely fought counties where the vote could swing either way and determine the outcome of the presidential election.
They include Samburu, Turkana, West Pokot, Kwale, Lamu and Nakuru. The others are Narok, Kajiado, Bungoma and Trans Nzoia.
On Wednesday, to woo the pastoral region, Mr Odinga promised pastoralists that they would benefit from a livestock insurance plan if he is elected President. He noted that pastoralists live on the edge due to natural calamities that affect livestock, their economic mainstay.
The former premier also promised to develop meat processing industries to boost the region's economy from the sale of meat and hides and skins.
"We will deal with poverty. To help pastoralists, I will introduce livestock insurance so that when livestock are killed by droughts or even floods, they can still be compensated,” he said.
"Samburu has the potential of being a leading meat producer in the country. If we take the baton from President Uhuru Kenyatta, we will unlock Samburu's potential and find a way of setting up leather industries."
He vowed to address water and infrastructure issues plaguing the region. He said he would prioritise digging boreholes, dams and water pans to ensure Samburu pastoralists get water easily without trekking long distances.
"I understand you are facing perennial water shortages and hunger due to drought. If elected, my government will drill boreholes and water pans to harvest water to avoid serious shortages," he said.
Mr Odinga, citing his experience as a minister for roads, promised to improve roads in arid regions to ease communication.
Meanwhile, Dr Ruto is seemingly banking on Jubilee administration projects in Samburu over the last nine years to defeat Mr Odinga. The DP says his track record as the second in command would be adequate to get him elected as the country's fifth President.
In his last vote-hunting mission in Samburu last month, Dr Ruto defended his time in power, saying he had a lot to show for it, unlike his rival Mr Odinga, who he said does not have what it takes to lead the country.
DP Ruto slammed Mr Odinga’s bid, saying the August 9 General Election is not a beauty contest but a race about leadership capabilities and ideologies. He said Mr Odinga has no development track record to show despite serving as premier between 2008 and 2013.
“I and my competitor, Mr Kitendawili (referring to Mr Odinga), have been in politics and have held big positions, but I have got a clear track record. My competitor has held the prime minister post yet he has nothing to show for it," Dr Ruto said on May 8.
Dr Ruto cited his development tours in Samburu since the Jubilee administration took the reins of power in 2013 as sufficient proof he had the interests of the region at heart.
“What does my opponent (Mr Odinga) have to show in Samburu County, for instance? Will you give the job to a person who has a track record or someone who has nothing to show?” he asked a crowd in Wamba, Samburu East.
During his tenure as the DP, he said, he oversaw the implementation of major infrastructure projects in Samburu and across the country, including the construction of roads and schools and the upgrading of health facilities among others.
Among the mega projects that Dr Ruto took credit for in Samburu were the construction of the Naibor-Suguta-Maralal tarmac road, Wamba Technical Training College and the Yamo dam in Maralal.
"As the Deputy President of Kenya, I helped build the road that connects Rumuruti and Maralal. I also helped the establishment of three technical colleges in Samburu County and Yamo dam. What has that man who speaks in parables done for you, the people of Samburu?" Dr Ruto posed.
He said the priority in Kenya for now is reviving the economy and creating jobs for young people.
"Kenyans do not need to be told about constitutional changes at this time. We want to know how we can revive the economy by empowering the youth, women and small business people." Dr Ruto said, promising to create a conducive environment for small-scale businesses to thrive.