A Member of Parliament's statement that the majority Nandi sub-tribe will decide the leadership of Uasin Gishu County has elicited sharp reactions across the region.
Speaking at the funeral of Governor Jackson Mandago’s step-mother in Soy two weeks ago, Soy MP Caleb Kositany made remarks suggesting that it was the decision of members of the sub-tribe that would ultimately carry the day when choosing the governor's successor in 2022.
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“Amoche asomok ko ki bororiet ab Kalenjin kenai kele kimi Uasin Gishu ko nenyoo kondoi bororietab Nandi asikorube bororiosiek alake. Makimoje kesir kiwoto nebo chii eng kandoinatet. Kasomok bororiet ab Nandi ak chi age tugul neimeche governor nebo Uasin Gishu, kotomo kotwek Nandi komatkobolchej ji akoi kemwa kele wendi yo ngecheret (I implore you as Kalenjins that we all belong to Uasin Gishu, with Nandis in the lead followed by others. Anyone who wants to be governor in Uasin Gishu should not disturb us until we Nandis decide. Let us keep to our lanes when it comes to leadership. I plead with the people of Nandi, if Nandis have not spoken, no one should tell us where the seat should go),” he said.
The statement has not gone down well with leaders, some of who are angling to take over from Mr Mandago in 2022.
Some quarters view it as seeking to ignite the Nandi-Keiyo political divide that has often influenced voting patterns in the cosmopolitan county.
Mandago’s main competitor in the race, Zedekiah Bundotich Kiprop alias Buzeki, yesterday told The Standard that the people should be left alone to choose their own leaders.
“Elections should be democratic and candidates should be allowed to market their ideologies to the voters who will make their own choices. Tribalism and clannism are tragic and those behind divisive politics should apologise. People should not campaign on the basis of tribe. I will tell the electorate to vote for me because of my development agenda and aspirations to improve standards of living,” said Mr Buzeki.
Mr Kositany's statement is significant since ethnic calculations played a significant role in last year's elections. At the time, Myoot Council of Elders proposed that the governorship should be 'given' to aspirants from Uasin Gishu’s northern region, whose key inhabitants are Nandis.
During the elections, Mandago, who is from the northern part of Uasin Gishu, was elected governor.
The Senate seat went to Margaret Kamar from the eastern part where Keiyos are the majority. The southern region is also cosmopolitan, with Nandis and Keiyos making a bigger part of the population. Gladys Shollei won the post of woman representative.
The elders' advice saw Mandago carry the day, with massive support from the Nandi sub-tribe.
The competition caused political suspicions among the various communities, particularly the two predominant sub-tribes of Nandi and Keiyo in the county.
Kenyan ambassador to Pakistan Julius Bitok, while confirming that he would be in the 2022 race, said elders played a key role in the last polls.
“The advice of elders in the last election was important in shaping the opinion of the voters," said Kositany.
But Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi dismissed Kositany’s utterances as "not worth coming from even the chairman of a cattle dip".
“I'm in the race and this time around, we are not going to consider if one is a Nandi, a Keiyo or a Marakwet. I’m a pure Marakwet myself and I was elected for a second term as MP in the last elections. Kesses MP Swarup Mishra is a Kenyan-Asian and was also elected. People are going to look at our development record,” said the MP, who has also declared his interest in the race.
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Moiben MP Silas Tiren said communities in the region should work together.
“It is always good to give people a chance to exercise democracy and make their own choices. There is need for all communities to work together,” he said.
Buzeki said utterances such as those made by Kositany should be rebuked, adding that all residents in the cosmopolitan county should co-exist and choose their leaders in a democratic process.
"In fact, if the elders are fair, after settling on a Nandi in the last elections, then they should this time around support a Keiyo candidate,” said Buzeki, who during a function attended by Deputy President William Ruto in Kesses constituency last week implored the governor to support him in the 2022 polls.
Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter warned: “Tribalising political contests is very wrong and Kositany should record a statement with the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC).”
Mr Mishra also weighed in on the debate, saying Kositany's statement should be taken positively.