The outcome of the General Election in Baringo and West Pokot counties will be a major test for Deputy President William Ruto and his nemesis Baringo Senator Gideon Moi.
The two counties, and to some extent the nearby Elgeyo Marakwet, are seen as the last bastions of Kanu and a springboard for Mr Moi in his bid to outwit Mr Ruto.
Last week, the Deputy President hosted an estimated 1,200 people from West Pokot County led by Governor Simon Kachapin. The county’s Senator John Lonyangapuo has been working hard to popularise Kanu.
Prof Lonyangapuo is a protégé of former President Daniel Moi and has risen from humble beginnings as a brilliant student through to his stint as Principal of Chepkoilel campus of Moi University and later as Permanent Secretary under President Mwai Kibaki.
When Mr Ruto hosted a delegation from West Pokot at his Karen home in Nairobi last year, he did not have kind words for Prof Lonyangapuo — a clear indication of the rift between the two.
“Delegations are archaic and used to work during the one-party era, we are in multi-party times. Obviously its old Kanu leaders who are hosting delegations. Last year he called me mjinga (stupid), how can a professor of applied Maths be stupid” Prof Lonyangapuo said.
The senator has declared his interest in the governor’s position and is determined to oust Mr Kachapin, who is firmly in Jubilee. Incidentally both were in Kanu in 2013.
On Saturday, Mr Lonyangapuo hosted 3,000 elders from Pokot community some coming from as far as Uganda. Interestingly, former Minister Samuel Poghisio, the man Prof Lonyangapuo beat for senate in 2013, has joined Kanu and has declared his candidature for the Senate.
Observers point that due to his popularity, Prof Lonyangapuo poses a threat to Jubilee’s dominance in the region even though there is general agreement Kanu will support President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Insecurity has also been part of the problems facing the region. Some political observers cite the 2014 Kapedo attack where more than 20 police officers were killed as the turning point in the relationship between Mr Ruto and Mr Lonyangapuo.
Though President Kenyatta visited the area immediately after the attacks, some locals blamed the security operation that followed on the Deputy President.
“Prof Lonyangapuo came in as the defender of the community and he has been sailing high since then,” said one aspirant from the area who didn’t wish to be named.
Mr Kendagor Obadiah, who is eyeing Kapenguria parliamentary seat on a Jubilee ticket, said the ruling party will win a majority seats in the county but conceded that Prof Lonyangapuo remains a threat.
“Any attempt to antagonise Lonyangapuo will greatly affect Uhuru (President Kenyatta’s) voters. Jubilee national leadership should treat the Jubilee-Kanu push and pull in West Pokot like a father would his wrangling children — stay out of the muddy waters,” he said.
In Baringo, political temperatures are also rising after Mr Ruto met a delegation from the county at his Sugoi home and endorsed Betting Control and licensing Board Director Simon Chelugui as the next senator .
“You do not do away with the only bull in the kraal,” an MP from the area said, inferring that Mr Moi is the most senior and visible leader in the region.
CONTEST FOR SENATE
Mr Chelugui ran for governor in 2003 and lost narrowly to incumbent Benjamin Cheboi. He was gearing to contest against Mr Cheboi again when he was prevailed to opt for Senate.
“It is not the Deputy President who initiated my move to contest for Senate. It was the elders who said that I can wait for five more years and instead I should contest for Senate. DP just said what elders had decided,” he said.
Jubilee is also in the wings waiting to see whether Mr Moi will join the opposition.
According to Mogotio parliamentary hopeful Pope Koech Morogo, Mr Moi should read the signs of the times and stop fighting the Deputy President then decide whether he is supporting Jubilee or Cord.
Mr Moi has been linked to the National Super Alliance led by Mr Musalia Mudavadi but has always maintained that Kanu remains part of Jubilee.
Baringo North MP William Cheptumo said the area is under Jubilee lock and key.
“If Moi was a factor in Baringo, why did his candidates lose in 2013?” he said.
Eldama Ravine MP Moses Lessonnet said the Baringo Senator should shelve his ambitions for a later date.
“We want Gideon Moi to join the queue and come after 2032,” he said, adding that insecurity is the biggest problem the government should address.