The battle for Elgeyo-Marakwet governor’s seat has gone a notch higher, following the entrance of an independent candidate being fronted by one of the biggest communities in the region.
Mr Moses Changwony, who polled third in the Jubilee Party primaries in April, quit the party and submitted his bid for the gubernatorial seat as an independent.
A former Sasini Tea Chief Executive, Mr Changwony is from the Keiyo community, which feels sidelined in the county leadership dominated by their neighbours from Marakwet.
The county is mainly made up of the two communities, hence the origin of the name of the county.
However, the Marakwet have dominated key leadership positions since 2013, making Keiyos feel sidelined.
In 2013, for instance, Governor Alex Tolgos and Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, who are both Marakwets, won the seats, leaving the woman rep seat to Keiyo’s Susan Chebet.
In the last Jubilee nominations, Mr Tolgos and Mr Murkomen won the tickets but this time Keiyo lost the woman rep Jubilee ticket to the a Marakwet, Ms Jane Kiptoo.
This has aggrieved the Keiyo more as they risk not having anyone to represent them in the county leadership if all the party nominees are elected in August.
Following the outcome, the Keiyo held a strategic meeting in Iten where they agreed to front independent candidates for key seats including governors.
Mr Changwony has the support of other Keiyo candidates who lost in the primaries.
The community has also fronted two independent candidates for the woman representative’s seat, Ms Florence Korat and Dr Susan Chebet to battle it out with Ms Kiptoo.
Analysts however say the fronting of two candidates would still be an advantage to Ms Kiptoo of Jubilee.
Speaking to the Nation, Mr Changwony, who also lost to Mr Tolgos in 2013, confirmed that he had secured the independent certificate and was ready to launch a serious campaign for the seat.
“Having had extensive consultations with my supporters, I have decided to take the necessary step to vie for the seat as an independent,” Mr Changwony said.
The fate of Keiyo South MP Jackson Kiptanui who lost in the Jubilee primaries is yet to be known, although reports are that he might have dropped out of the race altogether.
After coming second in the nominations, the lawmaker did not concede defeat and consequently challenged the results at the Political Parties’ Disputes Tribunal but the case was dismissed for lack of sufficient evidence.
The MP had served for two consecutive terms after trouncing former powerful Cabinet minister in the Kanu era, Mr Nicholas Biwott.
Another candidate, who will be in the ballot as an independent, is former Marakwet East MP Linah Kilimo, who will be seeking the same parliamentary seat.
Ms Kilimo disputed her close loss to incumbent Kangongo Bowen in the Jubilee Party primaries and vowed to renew the contest with Mr Kangogo on August 8.
“There was absolute lack of transparency in the conduct of the nominations and it is for this reason that I have considered to offer my candidature on an independent ticket,” Ms Kilimo said.
"She said voter bribery, interference by presiding officials and turning away voters cost her victory in favour of the incumbent and therefore she would still be in the ballot come August.
QUEST FOR POWER
A university lecturer, Prof Joel Kiboss, who stayed away from the nominations, is challenging Mr Murkomen and Mr David Kimaiyo of Kanu for the senate seat as an independent.
Another independent candidate for governor is Mr Anthony Chelimo.
Also set to be on the ballot as independents come the August 8 General Election are members of the county assembly Vincent Kipchumba (Soy North Ward), Simion Chebii, (Embolot Ward), and Chardwick Kirop (Endo Ward).
County Assembly Deputy Speaker Paul Suter, who was beaten by 27 votes in the Jubilee primaries in Sambirir Ward has also secured the Independent Party ticket.