Elders declare Kalenjin kingpin position vacant

Kalenjin Council of Elders officials John Seii and Benjamin Kitur at a past function. Mr Kitur led a group of Tugen elders in a rite to declare the kingpin seat vacant on Thursday.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The community kingpin would be picked by more than 50 elders and will be crowned using the sacred regalia.
  • Elders interviewed said, though Baringo Senator Gideon Moi is a Tugen and is eyeing the presidency in 2022, local elders could not pass the leadership baton to him.

The battle for control of the Rift Valley, pitting Deputy President William Ruto against Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, has taken a new twist after the Myoot – Kalenjin Council of Elders declared the community kingpin seat vacant.

This followed a rite on Thursday in which the Tugen Council of Elders returned to its Nandi counterpart instruments of power given to former President Daniel arap Moi 65 years ago.

The instruments were used to crown the senior Moi (now deceased), when he replaced Mr Elijah Cheruiyot as the representative of the Rift Valley in the Legislative Council.

The Thursday ceremony in Sochoi, Nandi County, was attended by more than 200 Nandi and Tugen elders. Nandi elders were led by Mr Benjamin Kitur while Rev Wilson Kibet Sambu headed the Tugen group.

“A group of 20 Tugen elders returned the leadership regalia which Nandi elders gave Moi in 1955. It had to be returned because President Moi is no more and we do not need a vacuum,” Mr Kitur, who is also the Myoot chairman, said.

The regalia returned included sambut, rung’ut, nogirwet, korokto, sharit and kutwet.

Mr Kitur told the Saturday Nation that the community kingpin would be picked by more than 50 elders and will be crowned using the sacred regalia.

Succession treasures

“The succession treasures President Moi was given will be used to crown another person. The sambut is for inclusive leadership while kuutwet and the royal rung’ut are for authority. Sharit symbolises guidance. This had to wait until Mzee Moi completed his reign,” Mr Kitur, who doubles up as chairperson of Nandi-Kaburwo, which is mandated to keep the regalia on behalf of the Nandi community, explained.

Mr Sambu said Tugen elders deliberated on the next step concerning the region’s kingpin following the exit of President Moi and had agreed to return the regalia to Nandi County.

“We thank the Nandi elders for blessing us with the community’s leadership for 65 years. As Tugen elders, we thought it wise to return the regalia to the owners so that the community can look for another kingpin,” he said.

Elders interviewed said, though Baringo Senator Gideon Moi is a Tugen and is eyeing the presidency in 2022, local elders could not pass the leadership baton to him.

“The leadership instruments had to be returned to ignite the process of getting a kingpin,” Mr John Yego from Nandi said. The elders said Nandi has been bestowed with the responsibility of keeping the regalia as it is the most senior Kalenjin sub-tribe.

“Myoot is the umbrella of the 10 Kalenjin sub-tribes. The others are Kipsigis, Tugen, Marakwet, Keiyo, Pokot, Sabaot, Cherang’any, Ogiek and Terik,” Mr David Sing’oei, another elder, said.

“The next community spokesman will be installed at Sports Club Eldoret and not Kapkatet in Kericho as was the case with President Moi.”

Mr Kitur said the council will soon hold a meeting to start the process of identifying the community’s kingpin.

“We will not be influenced by politicians. The process will be fair,” he said.

“Five elders from every Kalenjin sub-tribe will be at the meeting. We will consider several factors, including leadership skills.”

The planned crowning of the community spokesman comes after Dr Ruto recently held a meeting with Talai elders, in what was seen as an effort to seek the community’s blessings to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Dr Ruto and his allies travelled to Kapsisiywa village in Nandi County and held talks with the elders for more than two hours.

Retired Anglican cleric James Bassy, whose home the ceremony took place, said Dr Ruto was adorned with the community’s leadership regalia, including sambut, kuutwet, sharit and rungut.

President Moi and his minister Nicholas Biwott are among leaders who were given sambut by the elders.

Blessing leaders

Mr Sing’oei said Talai elders have been blessing leaders regardless of ethnicity, and not necessarily on the behalf of the community.

“They also crowned Presidents Jomo Kenyatta, Mwai Kibaki, Uhuru Kenyatta and even ODM leader Raila Odinga. The community’s crown has to come from the Myoot and the coronation must be done in the open,” Mr Sing’oei said.

The DP has run the show in the Rift Valley in the last decade, pushing the Baringo senator and Kanu chairman to the periphery.

Dr Ruto recently met President Moi’s long-serving press secretary Lee Njiru.

Recent political changes spearheaded by President Kenyatta have, however, elevated the senator and given him more influence in Rift Valley politics.

Kanu Secretary-General Nick Salat says the senator’s supporters have begun reaching out to President Moi’s allies as well as new friends in anticipation of 2022.

After losing power to Mr Kibaki’s National Rainbow Coalition in 2002, Kanu became a shadow of the colossus that bestrode Kenya’s politics for four decades.

The younger Moi is using his ties with Mr Kenyatta to lobby for appointments of some of those who worked with his father. That has caused jitters in Dr Ruto’s Rift Valley allies.

While the senator seems to be gaining ground in local politics, Belgut MP Nelson Koech says Mr Moi is no match for the DP in the 2022 contest.

Dissent is already sweeping across the region, with Cherang’any lawmaker Joshua Kutuny, an ally of the President, accusing the senator of exploiting the Jubilee-Kanu deal to push for personal interests.

The MP said he has broken ranks with Mr Moi, adding that since the Kanu leader has become a major political principal through a deal with Jubilee in June, “Moi is rooting out innocent tribesmen as a way of getting back at Dr Ruto”.

“Gideon has been intimidating our people who got jobs through the influence of the DP. I will no longer associate with him as he has pushed our professionals out of the Cabinet and parastatals to be replaced with people from his area,” Mr Kutuny said.