Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony has warned Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen to keep off the politics of Kericho County.
In his first press conference on Monday upon arrival from a two-week trip to the United States, the county boss accused Mr Murkomen of having meddled in Kericho affairs during his absence and told him off for disrespecting him.
This unusually fiery response from Prof Chepkwony came barely two weeks after the Senate deputy majority leader accused him of having failed to fully support Aaron Cheruiyot, the Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) candidate in the March 7 Kericho Senate by-election, which Mr Cheruiyot eventually won.
The governor said by virtue of being a member of Deputy President William Ruto’s United Republican Party (URP), he was part of the Jubilee Alliance and was therefore bound to back JAP in the by-election.
“In Kericho County, I am in charge and Mr Murkomen should concentrate on the affairs of Elgeyo-Marakwet. I will not take his provocation kindly.
“I am in Jubilee to stay and I even accorded DP Ruto a cordial reception in my capacity as governor during the campaigns,” said Prof Chepkwony.
On March 19, while accompanying DP Ruto to Kericho for a thanksgiving rally after JAP’s victory in the mini-poll, Senator Murkomen shocked Kericho residents when he accused Prof Chepkwony of swaying between supporting Jubilee and Kanu.
Prof Chepkwony was not at the meeting as he had flown to the US on March 11.
Upon his return Tuesday, he wondered aloud how Mr Murkomen had developed a “loyalty barometer” with which he could determine his level of loyalty to the Jubilee party.
The visibly angry Prof Chepkwony accused the outspoken senator of attempting to use his close relationship with DP Ruto to antagonise others and seeking to divide the people of Kericho County and demanded that he provide evidence to back his allegations.
“He should mind his own business. First of all, no one is the barometer of Prof Chepkwony and so he cannot purport to know my political position.
“My interest has always been to keep the people of Kericho united and I will not allow anyone to threaten this unity, least of all Mr Murkomen,” he added.
Prof Chepkwony dismissed allegations that he had used the US trip as an excuse to skip the thanksgiving meeting, saying the United Nations-planned event had been in his calendar since January.
He added that he had informed Senator Cheruiyot and Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter that he would not be able to attend the thanksgiving meeting as he would be in New York attending the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).
He received the backing of Kericho political activist Paul Chirchir Tarimbo, who called Mr Murkomen’s comments about the governor “unfortunate” and sought to remind him that Prof Chepkwony had been backed by more than 150,000 Kericho voters and therefore ought to be respected.
“The visit by the DP to our great county was a success but Senator Kipchumba Murkomen almost killed the mature political mood that had been set through his careless remarks against our governor.
“An insult directed at the governor is an insult to the voters,” Mr Tarimbo said.
Mr Tarimbo said Mr Murkomen was wrong to poke his nose into the political affairs of Kericho County, adding that the county had leaders who could ably represent it and who should have been allowed to criticise the governor if it was necessary.
During his trip to the US, the governor secured donations of medical equipment and non-pharmaceuticals worth over Sh80 million as well as two ambulances.
As the Chairman of the Gender, Youth and Culture Committee on the Council of Governors, Prof Chepkwony left for the US on March 11 to attend the CSW, accompanied by Kirinyaga Governor Joseph Ndathi and Makueni Deputy Governor Adelina Mwau.
He said he had reached a deal with Huron Valley for the company to donate an ambulance to each of the 47 county governments.