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Jitters over Ruto's endorsement of Tabitha Karanja for Nakuru senate seat

Deputy President William Ruto with Keroche Breweries founder Tabitha Karanja at the Nakuru ASK Showground. January 26, 2022. [Harun Wathari, Standard]

The Nakuru senatorial race is gathering pace even as more candidates throw their hats in the ring with Keroche Breweries Limited CEO founder Tabitha Karanja being the latest entrant.

The race has been tepid since senator Susan Kihika announced she will not be defending her seat but will instead be seeking the governorship, hoping to dislodge Lee Kinyanjui.

Kinyanjui, who is allied to ODM leader Raila Odinga's Azimio la Umoja movement, said he will be defending his seat on his Ubuntu People's Forum while Kihika will be seeking the ticket of United Democratic Alliance (UDA) of Deputy President William Ruto.

On Wednesday, Ruto received Tabitha into UDA during a rally at the Nakuru ASK Showground. 

Immediately she was handed the UDA-banded cap, the Keroche boss declared she was ready to battle it out for the party's ticket ahead of the August 9 elections.

Tabitha promised to initiate major reforms, if she wins the seat, especially in the business sector.

"I want to go to the senate and influence reforms that will ensure businesspeople are not unfairly targeted by the government," said Tabitha who has been embroiled in a tussle with the Kenya Revenue Authority over allegations of unpaid taxes.

Ruto's camp that also has Turkana governor Josphat Nanok drummed support for Tabitha declaring her the right candidate for the seat.

However, Tabitha's endorsement by the UDA leadership has elicited disquiet among other local aspirants eyeing the party's ticket for the seat.

Andrew Yatich, a former civic leader who unsuccessfully vied for the seat in 2017, was aggrieved by Tabitha's endorsement and predicted impartial nominations.

"As a UDA senatorial aspirant, let me admit today that my hopes the party would conduct fair nominations were dashed when an aspirant was endorsed by the party's leadership. We are keenly watching what is happening in UDA. The party, it appears, is leaning towards incumbents and those with deep pockets," Tatich said.

Veteran politician Koigi Wa Wamwere has also declared interest in the Nakuru senatorial seat, having lost in Jubilee Party primaries in 2017. He was however non-committal on the party he will use to contest the seat.

Veteran politician Koigi wa Wamwere. [Harun Wathari, Standard]

“I will be on the ballot for the Nakuru senate seat come August 9. I will reveal my party in due course. I am determined to fight for Nakuru’s fair share of resources as a senator,” said Koigi.

Michael Wechuli, alias Mike Weche, who is also seeking to succeed Ms Kihika on a UDA ticket, has been working with Metro World Child, a non-governmental organization.

“I founded the NGO ten years ago and partnered with other international organizations to help children from families struggling to meet their basic needs,” said Wechuli,32, who was born in Bondeni slums in Nakuru East.

"Having worked with the local communities and seen the struggles they face, which I have also experienced, I have decided to join the senate so I can influence policies that will make life more bearable for the poor," said Wechuli. 

Daniel Kimani, 34, from Njoro sub-county said: "UDA speaks the language of the youth. We need bills that will empower the youth and special groups. Youth empowerment should be an integral part of our economic planning.” 

Kimani who is the Nakuru County youth chairperson expressed confidence he would win the UDA ticket and promised to fight for the young people if he gets to the senate.

Trade and Industrialization Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Lawrence Macharia Karanja, who is allied to Raila, officially announced his bid for the seat on January 7.

Industrialization CAS Lawrence Macharia Karanja. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

“If you don’t have the support of family and colleagues, then something is wrong. I called you here today to announce that I will be on the ballot for Nakuru senate seat in August and ask you, as my colleagues and friends, to support me,” said Karanja who spoke during a get-together party for lawyers at Rift Valley Sports Club.

“I have the right legal background and experience to perform the roles of a senator. There are many issues that need to be put straight as far as Nakuru is concerned. I am the right person for the position,” said Karanja.

Prior to his appointment as CAS on January 14, 2020, Karanja had been appointed by Kinyanjui the Nakuru Municipal Board chairman.

Kelvin Migongo, 28, a Nakuru-based journalist has also announced his plan to succeed Kihika.

Migongo, who hails from Bahati sub-county, told The Standard in an interview he wants to fight for more resources to be directed to the county.

"I also want to fight for the youth who are the majority in our county but have been ignored by the current leaders," said Migongo who announced he will be vying on Chama Cha Kazi party's ticket which is associated with Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria.