Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei was freed after being held in custody for close to seven hours on Tuesday over remarks he made at the weekend as political temperatures in the Rift Valley rise.
The region is turning into a hot bed ahead of the 2022 elections with politicians rooting for Deputy President William Ruto facing off with those opposed to him.
During a burial in Lelwak, Nandi County, Mr Cherargei made a veiled threat to Mr Ruto’s critics, warning of unspecified action if they continue “insulting” him.
Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) detectives arrived at Mr Cherargei’s Elgon View estate home in Eldoret early in the morning before pouncing on the Senator shortly after 9am.
He was escorted to Eldoret Central police station where he recorded a statement for more than one hour before being moved to Kisumu Central police station, where he was released on a personal bond.
Kisumu County DCIO Arap Towet said Mr Cherargei is expected to report at Eldoret Police station after two days.
Senator Cherargei was accompanied by his lawyer Ham Lagat and some of his supporters to Kisumu and was later joined by Nandi Governor Stephen Sang.
In the 30-second clip, he hits out at Mr Ruto’s political detractors.
“Wale watu wanaendelea kipiga vita Naibu Rais (those fighting the Deputy President), we are profiling you, we are profiling you,” he says in the clip that has since gone viral.
“If you fight the DP you’re fighting us. Don’t think he doesn’t have supporters.”
“As his supporters … we are marking you and profiling you. When the time comes we will deal with you. Even the DP has supporters and should be respected.”
Mr Cherargei, a first term senator, is not new to controversy.
He has been involved in a battle of supremacy with Nandi Governor Stephen Sang in recent weeks.
Soon after his release, the Senator and Mr Sang accused investigative agencies and the government of persecuting them following their support of Mr Ruto.
They accused Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji of unfairly targeting a group of leaders allied to the DP.
The two spoke at Kisumu Central Police Station moments after Mr Cherargei was released.
“The DCI and National Cohesion and Integration Commission should act swiftly in other alleged incitement cases made by leaders who are not pro-Ruto,” Mr Cherargei said. He added that police wanted to find out what he meant when he said they are ‘profiling’ certain people and ‘kuwashughulikia’.
“Kushughulikia has different meanings, like giving somebody food. It may mean being intimate with a someone and what I meant was we will deal with them at the ballot by winning,” the senator said.
He also stated that he was questioned over the Mau issue and 2022 politics.
“As an elected leader, I always stand for peace and human rights and cannot be part and parcel of an innuendo. We should desist from turning this into political persecution. Threats or not, I will continue being loyal to Jubilee party and leadership of Mr Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Ruto,” he said.
Mr Sang said there have been many reckless statements from politicians from other regions.
He gave the example of former Njoro MP Joseph Kiuna and Nyeri MP Ngunjiri Wambugu “yet nothing has been done”.
He accused Mr Wambugu of interrupting meetings in his constituency two times, including one organised by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri.
“We need the same speed being used to arrest us, to be used to handle any other case of this nature from the Kieleweke team,” he said, referring to Jubilee MPs opposed to Mr Ruto.
But while the senator maintained that he did nothing wrong and stood by the statements he made few days ago, the governor differed, saying leaders should tame their tongues. He said because of the heightening political temperature, politicians must not engage in talk that may trigger violence.
“Any statement made that could be misconstrued to contribute to a breach of peace or instability must be investigated. The DCI should carry out investigation diligently to ensure that the stability of the country is maintained,” the governor said.
The 2022 politics is raising tension among communities in Rift Valley.
In previous elections, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Trans Nzoia, Kericho and several other counties in the Rift Valley have been mapped out as possible violence hotspots.
Mr Ruto, who has hit the ground to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2022.
Report by Wycliff Kipsang, Barnabas Bii and Rushdie Oudia.