The battle for political supremacy in the Rift Valley is reaching fever pitch with only five days to the election. The battle has taken shape along sub tribe lines with the Kipsigis, the largest Kalenjin group, feeling increasingly estranged from deputy president Wiliam Ruto, who is the region’s link to the Jubilee Party.
Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, who is the second most popular Kalenjin political figure, is aggressively leading a rebellion against the Jubilee Party with the sole goal of charting a different path for residents dissatisfied with the failures of the Jubilee government.
Governor Ruto emerged as a critic of the government shortly after the 2013 elections when, as the first chairman of the Council of Governors, he marshalled the county leaders to press for greater control of the devolved units and more resources for their governments. This campaign brought him to the crosshairs of the government who has been hellbent on suffocating counties through more centralized control, lower resource allocations and the passage of inimical legislation.
While Governor Ruto has support among all Kalenjins dissatisfied with Jubilee, the differences have taken ethnic hues given a number of dynamics. The Kipsigis who are dominant sub tribe among the Kalenjin community has for the past four years accused DP Ruto, who is from the Nandi group, of sidelining them in terms of resource allocation and government employment.
The Kipsigis accuse the DP of favouring the Nandis by allocating them plum government jobs at the expense of the Kipsigis. Governor Ruto and Kuresoi south Member of Parliament Zakayo Cheruiyot have been leading the rebellion, accusing the DP of failing to ensure Jubilee’s fulfillment of the pledges it made it made to the region.
They also accuse the DP of failing to ensure that internally displaced persons who were moved from the Mau forest were compensated as he had promised during the 2013 campaigns. The construction of the controversial Itare Dam in Kuresoi has also contributed to the political wars between DP Ruto and South Rift leaders who say that the project will have adverse environmental effects on the region something that the DP has opposed.
The political war between the North and South Rift got intense when the DP led the crusade of dissolving the United Republican Party, something which the South Rift leaders vehemently opposed. Governor Ruto and Zakayo Cheruiyot who were ardent supporters of the DP in the 2013 elections but they broke ranks and formed the Chama cha Mashinani (CCM) which is currently expanding in the South Rift region like bushfire.
The Kipsigs who occupy Bomet and Kericho counties and form strong minorities in Nakuru and Narok seem to have decided that it is time for them to have their own political kingpin, hence Governor Ruto’s emergence as an alternative to the DP.
For the past three months, Governor Ruto has held massive campaigns to spread the CCM message and fasten his political grip on the Kipsigis sub tribe, many of whose current and former leaders are now with the governor. In fact, upcoming Kipsigis leaders like Emurua Dikir MP Johanna Nge’no see CCM as their natural home.
The three have been leading a charm offensive against DP Ruto in the South Rift and have swayed large numbers of their kin to support NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga who they believe will give the region its fair development share and protect their interests.
Increasingly, the Kipsigis see Raila as the safest politician to vote for in this election, one who can save them from the marginalization the Jubilee administration whose political programme is dominated by the co-option of leaders into the national patronage networks rather than wholesome development for the country that will provide jobs and security for the majority.
The Kipsigis will undoubtedly contribute a huge number of votes to what NASA, even though, like everywhere else among the Kalenjin, voters with limited education or those who believe in tribal solidarity will still give their vote for Jubilee.
In urban areas like Kericho, Bomet, Litein, Kapsuser, Sotik, Kaplong, and in suburbs of Nakuru Town and the far reaches of Emurua Dikirr, young Kipsigis voters are increasingly asking what Jubilee will offer them in the next five years that it hasn’t since 2013. “This election is going to be about our own future, not William Ruto’s,” said Japheth Rono, a youth organiser in Narok who works with CCM candidates in the region.
As Hon. Ngeno has said in several rallies, the community should assess clearly what they have gained in Jubilee over the last five years to warrant their pooling their votes for the government. “The more people look at their own conditions and live prospects, the more they will vote for NASA,” the MP recently told NASA-NEWS.COM.