The battle lines have been drawn in the Rift Valley as independence party Kanu seeks to reclaim its lost glory in the region amid an onslaught from the United Democratic Alliance (UDA).
Baringo Senator Gideon Moi is facing the fight of his political life in the August 9 elections, exactly two years after the death of his father, former President Moi, who was widely respected and revered by the community.
The senator is facing an uphill battle to sell Kanu in a region that appears to be tilting heavily towards the DP, who’s expected to run for State House on a UDA ticket.
The independence party’s fortunes dwindled after it was ousted from power by the Narc wave in 2002, but there was always hope going to each election with former President Moi still around.
Now for the first time, the younger Moi is going to an election alone against a formidable challenger, who has sustained an aggressive grassroots campaign across the country for almost four years.
West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo, who was the only Kanu county chief in the Rift Valley, recently bolted out with some ward reps to form the Kenya United Party (KUP).
Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) – led by former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto – has also made inroads in the region. It has MPs Gabriel Tongoyo (Narok West) and Gideon Koskei (Chepalungu), with 22 MCAs.
There are nine MPs who were elected on a Kanu ticket in the Rift Valley, although some have since defected to other parties. They are Naisula Lesuuda (Samburu West), Mohamed Osman (Fafi), William Kamket (Tiaty), Jackson Lekumontare (Samburu East), Maison Leshomo (Samburu Woman Rep), Dahir Duale (Dadaab), Raymond Moi (Rongai), Gladwell Cheruiyot (Baringo Woman Rep) and Johana Ng’eno (Emurua Dikirr).
In the Senate, the party is represented by Mr Moi, Samuel Poghisio (West Pokot) and Abshiro Halakhe (nominated).
Pokot South MP David Pkosing of Jubilee and former MPs Asman Kamama and Philiph Rotino (Kacheliba) are now working with KUP.
“We are done and dusted with Kanu. We have moved on to KUP, which we are marketing in the region as the political vehicle of choice for the residents and leaders of Rift Valley,” said Prof Lonyangapuo.
Senate Majority Leader Samuel Poghisio (West Pokot) is expected to run on a Kanu ticket against Prof Lonyangapuo.
Kachapin seeks comeback
Former Governor Simon Kachapin, who recently resigned as the chief administrative secretary for sports, is eyeing the UDA ticket in the primaries in a bid to recapture the seat.
In Baringo, Ms Cheruiyot is still with the cockerel party, with Mr Moi expected to fly its flag in Rongai in Nakuru County.
In North Eastern, the party hopes to retain Fafi and Daadab constituencies, but with a tough competition from Dr Ruto and Azimio la Umoja led by President Kenyatta and ODM boss Raila Odinga.
Mr Ng’eno ditched Kanu shortly after being elected in the 2017 General Election and has since been hobnobbing with Dr Ruto and UDA, a party whose ticket he is seeking to defend his seat.
“Mr Moi is my friend. But in politics, my allegiance is with Dr Ruto, who is poised to succeed President Kenyatta,” he said.
He said Kanu had lost ground in the Rift Valley and won’t count much in the polls.
“Kanu served its purpose in the political history of this country, but the people have since moved on to other parties,” said Mr Ng’eno.
Mr Richard Yegon, a Bomet East parliamentary aspirant, said Dr Ruto had convinced the people to rally behind him and UDA in the election.
“From Turkana to Laikipia, it is clear that residents will back the DP to succeed President Kenyatta,” he said.
“Unlike Dr Ruto, who has unmatched energy for meetings, rallies and boardroom sessions in one day, Mr Moi is known for his laid back nature that has worked against Kanu,” he added.
Change political landscape
Mr Nick Salat, the party’s secretary-general, said in a recent interview that Kanu was putting in place measures that would change the political landscape in the region and surprise the pace setters.
“Kanu is associated with most of the development projects across the country. It has a lot of grassroots support in the Rift Valley. The people have warmed up to the party ahead of the election,” he said.
“A high number of strong candidates at the grassroots level have applied to run on a Kanu ticket for the MCA, MP, woman representative, senatorial and gubernatorial positions in a clear sign of good things to come.”
Mr Bafadhil Abdulrahman, the party’s National Executive Council (NEC) member, expressed confidence that more Kanu candidates would be elected in August, compared to previous elections.
A number of the aspirants seeking the party’s ticket are said to be avoiding the expected fall-out in the UDA nominations.