It will be a titanic political battle between Jubilee and Kanu for the Elgeyo Marakwet senatorial seat in the August General Election.
Several aspirants have declared their candidature to unseat the incumbent Kipchumba Murkomen and have started mobilising grassroots support ahead of the polls.
Murkomen, the Senate deputy majority leader and a vocal defender of the Jubilee Government, is facing an onslaught from his rivals who accuse him of failing in his mandate.
They include retired Inspector General (IG) of Police David Kimaiyo, Eldoret Water and Sanitation Company (Eldowas) Chairman Cornelius Chepsoi and a senior officer with an international NGO Michael Kibiwott popularly known as ‘Mrefu’, among others.
Save for Kimaiyo, who is believed to be eyeing the Kanu ticket, the other aspirants including Murkomen will square it out in the Jubilee Party primaries.
The son of a squatter, Murkomen grew up in a village in the Embobut Forest but is never shy to remind his supporters during political rallies of his closeness to the powers that be.
But his closeness to President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto has come back to haunt him as he prepares to defend his seat in the August 8 elections.
The Senate deputy majority leader has been on the receiving end over insecurity in the Kerio Valley where he has been accused of ‘doing little’ to end the cattle rustling and banditry menace despite being close to the presidency.
Even though he surprised many in 2013 when he beat former powerful Minister Nicholas Biwott in the senatorial race, Kimaiyo’s entry in the race has forced the outspoken senator back to the drawing board.
The candidature of Kimaiyo, the former Inspector General of Police and Kenya Airports Authority chairman, complicates the political equation for Murkomen since both of them are from the Marakwet community with their homes being in bordering villages.
Although Jubilee Party has a strong following in the region, there have been murmurs of discontent among the residents who feel sidelined by the national government. This follows the sacking of a number of professionals from the region, including Kimaiyo himself.
It is against this backdrop that political observers say Kimaiyo’s candidature for the Senate seat might attract public sympathy and earn him protest votes.
“It will not be easy for Murkomen to win in the coming elections. The Marakwet community are very bitter about the Government and how it is handling issues affecting them, especially insecurity and public appointments,” said Richard Ruto, a political pundit from Marakwet.
He said in the 2013 elections, Murkomen received overwhelming support since there was no other candidate from the community.
As soon as Kimaiyo declared his candidature, Murkomen mocked the former IG political aspirations on social media; “Verily verily I say unto you, Elgeyo Marakwet County will not be under ‘Sieke’. At least not under my watch!” Murkomen posted.
Murkomen claims that Kimaiyo’s decision to join politics was a revenge mission against the deputy president and himself after the former IG lost his job.
Kimaiyo promised to protect civil servants from political witch-hunting if elected into the Senate, which he blamed for his exit from the civil service.
“The Senate seat will offer me a platform to protect public officers from being subjected to atrocities like the ones I encountered,” he said.
Without directly naming Murkomen, he lashed out at leaders who he said had only held political seats for a few years yet were “bragging about knowing everything in government”.
But Murkomen, the outspoken defender of the Government, laughed off his critics for taking advantage of the insecurity issue to malign his name for their political expediency and exuded confidence he will be re-elected based on his impeccable development record.
On September 30, last year, area Governor Alex Tolgos and Kimaiyo led hundreds of residents in protesting against the Government for inability to quell the insecurity.
“Some people are wondering why I should be answerable to the people on security matters yet it’s not the job description of a senator. Others have even asked me why I didn’t join others in carrying twigs and singing ‘Bado mapambano’ My answer is well captured in the words of Arnold H. Glasow that “a good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit,” Murkomen wrote on his Facebook page regarding the insecurity protest.
Murkomen says he has delivered most of his campaign pledges which he banks on to be re-elected.
Political observers say the writing is on the wall and the protests is a sign of changing political tide against the Government.
“The protest is against insecurity but in the real sense, it is a two-pronged approach to send a political statement that it will not be business as usual and that the community has options,” said Phillip Chebunet, adding the biggest beneficiary of this rebellion is Kanu.
“Kanu is capitalising on the Government’s inept handling of insecurity and other issues in the region. Kimaiyo will attract sympathy following the way he was bundled out of office. The locals are agitated due to insecurity and lack of equality in resources sharing,” he said.
Elgeyo Marakwet Kanu Chairman Paul Kibet said the discontent is a pointer on how Jubilee has frustrated locals.
“People are reacting to injustices meted out by the Government and many aspirants have given us indication that they will contest for various seats through the Kanu ticket,” he said.
He said soon most Kanu aspirants will launch their bids and they will give Jubilee a run for their money.