Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter and his Marakwet East counterpart Kangogo Bowen found themselves in an awkward political situation this week, and are now at the mercy of voters and the Jubilee Party as they seek to reclaim their seats.
This is the second misfortune to befall the vocal MPs in less than a month after they were stripped of the leadership of the National Assembly three weeks ago.
Keter and Bowen attracted the wrath of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto after they won the leadership of the Labour and Social Services committee and that of Environment and Natural Resources against the wishes of the Jubilee Party.
The defiant MPs alongside Moiben law maker Silas Tiren, who had been elected chair of the Agriculture committee refused to step down and it took the intervention of President Kenyatta and his deputy to denounce their election.
For Jubilee Party, chicken could have come home to roost. Before the MPs in the committees were summoned to State House where they signed letters that eventually ousted the fiery and youthful law makers, the rebels had taken Uhuru and Ruto head on, vowing not to resign.
They even went to court to challenge their removal. But on Tuesday and Thursday in the same week and under one judge, the two Jubilee MPs who have served just six months of their second terms could either rue their political course or go ahead to prove their mantle.
Through the by-election, Ruto has an opportunity to possibly politically annihilate the legislators or allow them an opportunity to competitively try and recapture their seats.
Keter and Bowen’s moves could easily be seen as political suicide given that Rift Valley is Ruto’s political bedrock. However, political activists believe that this could be the reverse.
“In Nandi, leaders who have led rebellions are liked and respected, from Koitalel Samoei to former Nandi Hills MP Jean Seronei as well as his Eldoret North counterpart Chelagat Mutai. They are good examples of leaders who lived a larger than life in Nandi. Keter now swims in the same waters,” said Kenya Farmers Association Director Kipkorir Menjo.
Several MPs in Rift Valley were elected without the blessings of Ruto, according to Menjo. He said two MPs in Ruto’s Uasin Gishu home county were elected on an independent ticket, vanquishing Jubilee fag bearers.
Through Keter, Bowen, Tiren and Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny, Rift Valley has seen some independent minded leaders. “They are a breath of fresh air in the region’s politics,” Menjo said.
Mrs Janet Sitienei from Ruto’s Turbo’s constituency and William Chepkut (Ainapkoi) in Uasin Gishu were elected as independents.
Keter’s election was nullified after his August 8 competitor Bernard Kitur challenged his win at the High Court in Eldoret. In his ruling, Justice George Kimondo said evidence provided in court proved that irregularities were committed in the polls.
Kitur had sought court action to invalidate the election citing violence, intimidation of voters and agents during campaigns and on the election day.
He claimed that Keter bribed voters and extended campaigns to August 6 and 7 contrary to the Elections Act.
Bowen also lost his seat following a successful petition. Justice Kimondo said the parliamentary election was marred by irregularities.
In the petition lodged by Sammy Kipkeu Kemboi, a voter from Marakwet East, the Eldoret court judge said there was adequate evidence to prove massive irregularities during the election.
IEBC declared Kangogo the duly elected MP with 14,626 votes against 13,713 that his two times rival and former MP Lina Jebii Kilimo, an an independent candidate, got.
Keter said nullification of his election was part of a wider scheme to silence him and other critics within Jubilee.
“I will remain speaking for the weak, that is my problem with the authorities. I remain true to the voters in Nandi Hills and will speak without being intimidated. I am not shocked at all at the outcome. I am being fought from the top,” Keter said.
Kalenjin Elders emeritus Major (Rtd) John Seii said Jubilee should allow the leaders to democratically seek fresh mandate.
“It is unfortunate that we have to go back to the polls after the long pelitical period. We hope the courts maintained neutrality in the ruling and that there was no outside influence,” said Major Seii.
Kutuny says the two should given a fair chance to defend their seats in Jubilee.
“They should be given chance to recapture their seats. Any attempt to kick them out could boomerang on Jubilee,” Kutuny argues.