The Kericho Senate by-election has reignited the rivalry between Deputy President William Ruto and the Moi family represented by Baringo Senator Gideon Moi.
For years, former President Daniel arap Moi straddled the Rift Valley political scene like a colossus, crushing any opposition from the region and maintaining political control until 2002 when he retired from active politics, eventually handing over the political mantle of the family to his son Gideon.
However, the younger Moi has constantly engaged in a political fight to win back control of the vote-rich Rift Valley from DP Ruto, who took hold of the region after President Moi’s exit and nearly phased out the once-powerful Kanu.
SOUTH RIFT POLITICS
Since then, the independence party has been battling to regain foothold in the Rift Valley, with Gideon Moi, the Baringo Senator, leading the charge.
Both DP Ruto and Mr Moi have announced bids for State House and the Kericho County Senate race has provided an opportunity for them to lock horns once again and assess their political influence especially in the South Rift where both have fielded candidates from their parties.
Mr Moi has the support of Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, who has also broken ranks with DP Ruto over what he said was the DP’s unilateral decision to dissolve the United Republican Party (URP).
Kanu has fielded former Health minister Paul Sang, who came second in the Senate race in the 2013 General Election, after Charles Keter who has since been appointed CS for Energy.
Mr Moi, who was in Kericho last week to hand over the Kanu nomination ticket to Mr Sang, said he will personally lead the campaigns for Mr Sang.
“I am asking Kericho residents to support our candidate. He is the right man for the job and Kanu is confident of winning the seat,” he said.
Mr Nicholas Biwott’s Vision Party has also fielded former MP, Bishop Daniel Tanui.
The Deputy President is fronting youthful Aaron Cheruiyot, a newcomer in the political scene, through the Jubilee Alliance Party.
While attending CS Keter’s homecoming ceremony at Kabianga Boys’ High School in late December, DP Ruto vowed that Jubilee will pull out all stops in a bid to ensure victory in the contest.
Mr Ruto promised a bruising campaign and asked voters to support Jubilee as a way of appreciating the appointment of Mr Keter to the Cabinet.
“We want this seat to remain in Jubilee. Do not be misled by people into voting for village parties instead of supporting a party with nationwide reach like Jubilee. There is a lot to benefit by staying in government,” Mr Ruto told Kericho voters.
Soon after his nomination to the Cabinet, Mr Keter said Jubilee will do everything in its power to retain the seat, adding that Kericho was “the heartbeat” of JAP and would, therefore, not readily relinquish the Senate position to any other political party.
ALLEGATIONS OF VOTER BRIBERY
However, allegations of massive voter bribery and rigging in the JAP primaries have rocked the party and left it nursing wounds, giving rise to rebellion from within the party supporters.
Former National Housing Corporation chairman Sammy Chepkwony, who came second in the nomination, has demanded that the results of the primaries be cancelled, and accused senior party officials of stealing victory from him.
According to official results released by the JAP secretariat, Mr Cheruiyot garnered 17,565 votes while Mr Chepkwony got 17,081 votes.
But in a letter to JAP Secretary-General Veronica Maina dated January 18, Mr Chepkwony said the party ought to nullify it to salvage its image.
“We hereby demand that it be declared that the said Aaron Cheruiyot was not validly nominated. It is our hope that the party secretariat will act on these pertinent concerns so as to redeem the image of the party,” it read.
Kanu stands to be the biggest beneficiary of the fallout as aggrieved supporters of Jubilee vowed to back Mr Sang.
Kanu has also received the backing of the two main teachers’ unions, who have sworn to punish the Jubilee Government over what they perceive as massive exploitation of teachers and failure to pay their September salaries in time.
In a Facebook post, Knut Secretary-General Wilson Sossion called on all teachers to support Mr Sang and reach out to other voters with the same message.
“We wish Hon Sang all the best as he commences his campaign for the vacant Kericho seat. He stands out as a reliable, honest, truthful and dependable Kipsigis leader,” wrote Mr Sossion.
Mr Sang is himself a teacher by profession, having resigned from his post as headteacher to run for the Bureti parliamentary seat in 1997 and won.
He held the position for two terms until 2007 when he was unseated by Former Roads Minister Franklin Bett.