The William Ruto factor is increasingly shaping the race for political positions in Bomet county.
The rising popularity of the Eldoret North MP’s United Republican Party in the area is demonstrated by the fact that most aspirants for various positions are seeking its ticket.
In the race for the gubernatorial seat for example, four out of the six hopefuls are in the Repubican Party.
The women’s representative race has been reduced to a URP affair after all the three contestants in the race so far declared that they will run on the party’s ticket.
However, what impact Mr Ruto’s decision to settle for the running mate position in the power sharing agreement with Uhuru Kenyatta and Musalia Mudavadi in the Jubilee alliance will have is not yet clear.
There are those who say that URP’s popularity was premised on the fact that Mr Ruto would run for the presidency.
Consequently, his dropping out may open the way for other parties, especially Kanu and the Orange Democratic Movement to seriously challenge for a share of the spoils.
In the new dispensation, Bomet will have a total of six constituencies.
They are Bomet Central, Bomet East, Chepalungu, Sotik, Konoin and Buret.
Those in the race for women’s representative include former Director at the Education ministry in charge of Centre for Mathematics, Science, Technology and Education in Africa, Ms Cecilia Chelangat Ngetich.
Bomet county Maendeleo Ya Wanawake chair Hellen Taplelei Rotich and Nairobi businesswoman Beatrice Chebomui are the other two.
It is only in the senatorial contest that there appears to be some competition among parties with strong aspirants seeking URP, Kanu and ODM tickets.
The former ruling party is likely to give its national secretary-general Nick Salat a direct nomination for the senate seat, setting the stage for a major battle with the URP candidates for the post.
Those seeking the URP ticket are former Konoin MP Raphael Kitur, former University of Nairobi don Prof Wilfred Lesan and former ambassador Joshua Terer.
Mr Andrew Langat, a former accountant at the Kipsigis County Council, has also declared interest in the seat on an ODM ticket.
Mr Salat is seen as a serious hopeful because of his political experience.
A son of a former powerful assistant minister in the Nyayo era, Mr Isaac Salat, he was first elected to Parliament in 2002. His undoing may, however, be the fact that Kanu no longer enjoys the massive influence it had during the Moi era.
Those going for the gubernatorial position on the URP ticket include Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto, his Konoin counterpart Julius Kones and two newcomers — Nairobi businessman Clement Kiplangat Mutai and a manager with the Association of Local Government Authorities of Kenya (Algak), Mr Shadrack Rotich.
The other two candidates, former East African Community Minister John Koech and former Local Government Permanent Secretary Sammy Kirui will run on a Kanu and United Democratic Forum tickets respectively.
URP’s popularity will, however, face its sternest challenge during nominations given prevailing fears that certain aspirants plan to use their close ties with the party leader to rig the exercise.
“The party must put up proper mechanisms to guarantee a free and fair nomination exercise. What I know is that William (Ruto) has not anointed anybody for any seat, but there are those who want to use his name to rig the nominations,” Dr Kones said.
The election will see three long-standing protagonists from Chepalungu constituency renew their rivalry, but this time the prize is the governor’s post.
In the 2002 Kanu nominations, Mr Koech floored both Ruto and Kirui.
Mr Ruto decamped to the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc), but still lost to Mr Koech in the election proper, whereas Mr Kirui stayed put in Kanu and was later appointed the director -general of the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) in Kibaki’s administration.
All the three score highly when it comes to use of the Constituency Development Funds, provision of science facilities in secondary schools, rehabilitation of water projects and improved educational levels among the youths.
Mr Koech is credited with improving livestock breeds, setting up dairy plants, establishing milk coolers, and introducing drought resistant crops besides other agricultural activities during his tenure as MP.
All the aspirants promise to address poverty, unemployment among the youth, hunger alleviation and improved infrastructure, health facilities, water and other amenities.
Bomet is one of Kenya’s leading tea producers earning billions of shillings from the cash crop. It is not surprising, therefore, that tea matters are a top priority for all the aspirants.
Dr Kones says that, if he is elected Governor, he will ensure that farmers reap maximum benefits from tea, maize and dairy farming.
“I will ensure that we put up a regional tea auction in the county to compete with the Mombasa tea auction and save our tea farmers the cost of transporting tea to Mombasa, which eats into their returns,” he stated.
Improvement of infrastructure, value addition of the farmers produce, equitable distribution of resources, quality education and the construction of additional satellite tea factories to check wastage of green leaf are the other issues.
The former accountant also says fresh produce factories need to be set up together with milk cooling plants to empower the county residents economically.
He would also champion the interests of people with disabilities and ensure that their rights are catered for accordingly.
Mr Ruto also rates value addition to tea as a top priority.
He says the future of the county lies in the tea factories venturing into power generation to supplement the electricity needed for industrialisation.
“We do not have any industry, we rely on agriculture and that may not augur well for the new county government,” he said.
Mrs Beatrice Kones, assistant minister for Home Affairs, believes tea should bring related industries such as those of making packaging materials.
“If packaging materials are manufactured within the county, it will be an added advantage to create more jobs,” she said.