Since the advent of multipartyism in 1992, Laikipia County has had a history of voting for parties that are favourable in the central Kenya. In 1992 for instance, the county voted in favour of the Democratic Party.
This was replicated in 1997. In the 2002 and 2007 General Election, the county went in favour of Narc and PNU parties respectively.
Now this is set to change.
According to Mr Mwangi Kiunjuri, the MP for Laikipia East and assistant minister for Public Works, Laikipia politics has witnessed a major shift from party-based politics to issue-based politics.
“Laikipia County has evolved from the traditional party politics. Our people are now more interested in the development of their rural economy and lives generally, and not parties,” says the Grand National Union (GNU) party leader.
Mr Simon Mathenge, a Nyahururu resident concurs, adding that evaluating what the candidates are offering is the only way Laikipia will catch up with the rest of the more developed counties.
“We lag behind because we have not looked at candidates critically before and instead have swayed along the current of popular parties,” he says. “This time, we are looking for development-oriented leaders and not necessarily parties.”
Notably, the scramble for party nominations has also witnessed a new aspect in which many aspiring candidates shy away from the big parties. This has been especially evident among youthful aspirants.
According to Ms Alice Njoki, a 27-year-old women’s representative aspirant with the National Democratic Movement (NDM) party, the huge nomination fees set out by the big parties have been the biggest obstacle to young candidates. “Young candidates aspiring for political positions are finding it extremely hard to generate funds for exorbitant nomination fees in addition to financing their campaigns,” she says.
Her sentiments are echoed by Ms Jane Kagiri, who is eyeing the same position on a GNU party ticket. “Some parties are demanding as much as Sh100,000 nomination fee. This is wrong because what they are doing is effectively locking out candidates they consider less financially endowed,” she says.
However, Mr John Karumba, who intends to vie for the senatorial position on a TNA ticket, disagrees, saying that each party has the option of setting whatever limits it deems applicable.
“Each party has its rules and procedures. These procedures are not necessarily meant to lock out candidates but to ensure that there’s a level of seriousness among the aspirants,” he says, adding that it is political suicide for any candidate to contest on a different ticket other than TNA. However, TNA is not the only dominant party in a county that boasts the co-existence of more than five different communities.
The gubernatorial position has attracted a huge number of aspirants, among them Mr Kiunjuri, Mr Nderitu Mureithi, the MP for Laikipia West and assistant minister for Industrialisation, Mr Joshua Irungu, a community development specialist and Mr Mburu Kamau.
Mr Kiunjuri is seen by many as a serious front runner due to his track record as MP.
According to Mr Kiunjuri, most of the problems ailing Laikipia County have been largely resolved in his constituency, an issue that is seen as an edge in his quest for the gubernatorial position.
Nonetheless, he faces a stiff challenge from Mr Mureithi.
However, the Industrialisation assistant minister’s campaign has been plagued by issues of low development in his Laikipia West constituency, where poor road infrastructure and insecurity have been cited by many as of major concern.
The number of registered voters in the two political leaders’ respective constituencies has also played a role in shaping their campaigns as they both count on their strongholds to give them an upper hand in the coming gubernatorial contest.
In the just concluded voter registration, Laikipia County registered 399,227 voters, with Mr Mureithi’s Laikipia West taking the lion’s share of 203, 499 voters.
However, this was an 86 per cent turnout compared to 116 per cent turnout in Mr Kiunjuri’s Laikipia East. Laikipia North, which has a higher pastoral population, had the lowest turnout in the county with only 79,000 registered voters.
The contest though has not only been between Mr Mureithi and Mr Kiunjuri.
Mr Irungu, a newcomer in politics, is banking on his experience as a community development officer to capture the seat. He says that he is the ideal choice for those looking for fresh leadership.
“The people of Laikipia should be able to gauge what each leader has done for them and ask themselves if they want the status quo to continue or not,” he says.
Mr Irungu emphasises that between 2005 and 2009, he initiated a tree planting development programme in the semi-arid county for over 60,000 families who are currently earning about Sh30 million annually in carbon credits.
Laikipia County is 70 per cent semi-arid.
This is compensated by the county’s rich potential in beef farming. For instance, according to Ms Kagiri, Laikipia County earns Sh840 million in beef trading annually.
“This is a meagre earning,” she says. “The county has the potential to earn billions worth of beef if proper beef farming is encouraged and implemented among our pastoral communities.”
Evidently, all aspirants in Laikipia have been trying to resonate with the concerns of their electorate. The major issues that have collectively dominated all political campaigns in the county are youth unemployment, health, road infrastructure, and human–wildlife conflict.
Only 139 kilometres of road in the county have bitumen surface. There are only two district hospitals in Rumuruti and Nanyuki towns. Nanyuki District Hospital is, however, earmarked for upgrading to a referral hospital.
Nanyuki Town is the proposed county headquarters for the county consisting three constituencies.
The constituencies are Laikipia East, Laikipia West and Laikipia North.
The county borders Samburu County to the north, Isiolo County to the northeast, Meru County to the south, Nyeri to the south, Nyandarua County to the southwest, and Baringo County to the west.
The county is cosmopolitan with numerous communities coexisting.
In the senatorial contest, veteran politician and former MP for Laikipia West constituency GG Kariuki will be facing off with Mr Weston Gitonga, Mr Nahashon Kihara and Mr John Karumba.
The seat for women representative has attracted four candidates — Ms Jane Putunoi, Ms Kagiri, Ms Alice Njoki and Ms Virginia Wambui.
Although Laikipia County has the second largest wildlife population in Kenya, it has been unable to tap into its full potential in tourism.
Some of the main tourist hot spots in Laikipia include the Ole Pejeta Conservancy, the Laikipia Plateau Reserve, the Thompson Falls and Caves.
Human-wildlife conflict has been a major challenge in parts of Laikipia West.
According to Mr Kiunjuri, most of this expansive county is in the hands of private ranchers, who he says should take more responsibility in the welfare of residents by ensuring that the animals remain in the conservancies and do not stray into people’s farms.
“But the government should not be left behind. It should fence off its parks, and where necessary, build integration between itself and the ranchers, but not at the expense of the people,” he adds.
Mr Kiunjuri is also promising to turn Laikipia County into a bastion of agriculture, tourism and livestock keeping.
On his part, Mr Irungu promises to establish a revolving fund that will be used to “compensate victims of wildlife.
Aspirants for governor
Tourism, beef, roads and jobs top the agenda
Nderitu Mureithi, UDF
The Industrialisation assistant minister and MP for Laikipia West holds a Masters degree in Project Management and Management of Organisations from the University of Technology (UTS) in Australia.
He studied Economics and Finance at the St Francis Xavier University and has researched and published papers on leadership in small and medium enterprises.
Mr Mureithi says that if elected governor, he will spend between Sh300 and 400 million annually on road infrastructure. “I will make sure that all roads in Laikipia are reconstructed to ensure smooth transportation of goods and services,” he says.
Mr Nderitu adds that he will seek to increase the number of children transiting from primary schools to secondary schools by building more secondary schools. “Currently, only about 47 per cent of our children acquire secondary education.”
Mwangi Kiunjuri, GNU
Mr Kiunjuri holds a BEd from Moi University and is currently pursuing a degree in law at the University of Nairobi. He was first elected MP in 1997 on a DP ticket to represent Laikipia East.
In the 2002 and 2007 general elections, Mr Kiunjuri retained his seat on a Narc and PNU tickets respectively. He has been an assistant minister for 10 years in the ministries of Energy, Water and Public Works.
Mr Kiunjuri is also the party leader of the Grand National Union (GNU) party. He is promising to establish Laikipia County as the hub of beef, dairy and leather production.
He adds that in the next 10 years, under his leadership, Nanyuki District Hospital will be a fully fledged medical university. “It will, hence become a teaching constituent college of either Nairobi or Kenyatta universities. I will ensure it receives its own charter,” he says.
Joshua Irungu, TNA
Mr Irungu holds a Masters degree in Agriculture and Rural Development in addition to a Bachelor’s degree in Resource Management.
He says that he is a specialist in community and rural development, which gives him an impetus in the race for governorship.
“I have previously been the coordinator for Semi Arid and Rural development programme in Laikipia. My aim if elected governor will be to continue with this agenda,” he says adding that the programme was aimed at providing sufficient water through cost-sharing in construction of cement water tanks.
Mr Irungu is promising to set up a revolving fund that will “facilitate the maintenance of numerous fences, compensate victims of human–wildlife conflict and develop the areas surrounding the conservancies.”
Mburu Kamau, TNA
He holds a Bachelors degree in Commerce (Economics and Accounts) from the Nagpur University, India. He is a former senior accountant with KCC and is also a businessman with investments in the tourism sector.
In the 1997 and 2002 general elections, Mr Kamau contested for the Laikipia West parliamentary seat. He says that if elected, his leadership will give top priority to peaceful co-existence of the Laikipia communities.
He is also promising to turn Laikipia County into a tourism destination in sub-Saharan Africa. ”I will institute bold legislative reforms to create employment as envisaged in country’s Vision 2030.”
The father of three adds that he will seek to open up avenues of wealth creation “under the Mondragon Cooperatives model that will empower all citizens.”
Roads will also top on his agenda.
Aspirants for senate
Voters enticed with new system of education, tax breaks and better infrastructure
Godfrey Gitahi Kariuki, TNA
Popularly known as GG, the a former Cabinet minister in both the Kenyatta and Moi governments is also a former MP for Laikipia West. Before joining TNA, Mr Kariuki was the party leader of the Mkenya Solidarity Movement.
Mr Kariuki, who has an autobiography, is banking on his experience. He says top on his agenda will be the rights of Laikipia citizens who were displaced 30 years ago. Water and roads also top his to-do list.
Nehemy Ndirangu Kihara
Dr Kihara is a graduate of Emory University, Atlanta, US. He says if elected, he will rebuild the county’s agricultural potential, preserve the county’s cultural heritage and conserve its natural environment by creating appropriate industries and local parks.
He adds that as a senator, he will seek to encourage the private sector to provide child development education that challenges learners to be socially responsible citizens but also intellectually creative people.
Weston Gitonga, NDM
He holds a degree in theology from the Vision International University, US. Mr Gitonga, a bishop, says that he if he is elected, he will propose a new law that will invest more “tax money in public schools to hire and retain good teachers, build and renovate classrooms as well as give more tax breaks to teachers.”
He says that he will propose the construction of a light rail train system in the next 10 years. “I will also propose a youth empowerment project that will promote new businesses.”
John Karumba, TNA
He is the former Nyahururu mayor, holds a diploma in business management and has been a councillor for 20 years. He says bridging the gap between pastoralism and agriculture will be his top priority if elected.
Mr Karumba adds that he will build bridges of peace between pastoralists and cultivators. “I will cooperate with the governor and buy idle land in Laikipia where we will establish holding and grazing grounds for pastoralists,” he says. He is betting on his track record as area leader.
Maina Mathenge, TNA
Mr Mathenge holds a Bachelors degree in economics and mathematics from the University of Nairobi. He has since his graduation been an employee with Safaricom and is due to complete an MBA.
He says that all of Laikipia’s problems revolve around bad leadership. His seven point agenda includes agriculture, education, infrastructure, cohesion and unity, tourism, health and effectual representation. “I am a skilful negotiator,” he says.
Aspirants for women’s representative seat
Promise to mind families’ welfare
Jane Putunoi, UDF
She holds a diploma in clinical medicine and surgery, a higher diploma in epidemiology and Bachelor’s degree in sociology and communication.
In 2010, Ms Putunoi resigned from the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, where she was the measles surveillance officer to dedicate herself to her political quest in Laikipia.
Ms Putunoi, 35, says she is confident of clinching the seat, having led in a previous opinion poll in the county with 18 per cent over her closest rival who had 11 per cent.
She is promising to offer a leadership based on social justice and fairness and says that communal equality in socio-economic development will be top on her to-do list. “We are a cosmopolitan county and must not only co-exist in harmony but develop in unity as well,” she says.
If elected as a women’s representative, the mother of three adds that she will propose and implement education and rural development programmes that will be geared towards improvement of women and children’ welfare in the county.
Alice Njoki, NDM
At 27, she is the youngest aspirant among women contesting for the women’s representative position. She holds a diploma in human resource.
Ms Njoki says that if elected, her top priority will be to ensure that health facilities are brought closer to poor women and children in Laikipia County. “We do not have sufficient health facilities.
The ones that are available are too far flung, and I will take it upon myself to see that I come up with mobile clinics that will be accessible to women and children in the interior parts of Laikipia,” she says.
Ms Njoki adds that tourism will also be on her agenda as a means to expand the county’s income.
Jane Kagiri, GNU
She holds a Bachelor’s degree in computer science (BSc) from the University of Madras in India, an advanced diploma in business management and a diploma in public relations.
Ms Kagiri says her manifesto has been purely informed by her experience. She says she will seek to implement a development agenda based on three Es (education, equality and economic empowerment).
Ms Kagiri says that she nearly missed out on university and had to hold a fund-raising. She promises that if elected, she will ensure that no bright child in Laikipia misses out on school due to lack of fees.
“We currently have a population of about 400,000. More than 80,000 of these are unskilled because they could not proceed beyond primary. I will build education facilities so that youths are able to acquire some education,” she says.
She adds that of the 93 per cent primary school enrolment, only about 63 per cent of these are able to get to secondary.”
Viriginia Wambui, TNA
She holds a Bachelors degree in education from Kenyatta University. She has previously worked as a primary and secondary school teacher, and is also a farmer in Laikipia.
Ms Wambui says that her main vision will be to create a transformed county where gender diversity is appreciated through equality and equity of opportunities in positions of leadership and development through capacity building.
“I have identified empowerment of women and the youth as my main agenda,” she says.
Ms Wambui, who is also a businesswoman, adds that if elected, she will seek to promote and enhance capacity for social justice systems, including parenting, marriage and conflict resolution.
“I’ll make sure that our county establishes polytechnics that will offer skill-based education to more than half of our children who do not make it to tertiary institutions,” she adds.