SECTIONS

Defiant Keter fights to retain seat amid onslaught from Ruto allies

Nandi Hills MP.Alfred Keter during a past press conference at Parliament Buildings, Nairobi. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Outspoken legislator Alfred Keter will face off with rival Bernard Kitur in the race for the Nandi Hill’s parliamentary seat.

Keter, who fell out of favour with the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), won the party primaries but was controversially kicked out and the ticket awarded to Kitur.

After abandoning his petition at the political parties’ tribunal, Keter resigned from the party and opted to vie as an independent in his quest for a third term.

In 2017, the two-faced off, with Keter then flying the Jubilee Party flag, while Kitur vied on an independent ticket. Isaac Letting runs on ODM.

The outspoken lawmaker will be going against the grain to defend his seat, as the top UDA luminaries are rooting for Kitur. In the hotly contested UDA nomination, Keter garnered 10, 273 votes against Kitur’s 7,468 votes.

The nominations were, however, deemed not free and fair after Kitur launched an appeal at the party’s elections tribunal which cited voter bribery and intimidation allegedly reported in various polling stations.

While the tribunal ordered repeat nominations, the party handed the ticked to Keter’s competitor despite his protests.

“My fate was predetermined from the onset, and those involved made their intentions public prior to the nomination. I pity those who claim that the exercise was fair and transparent,” Keter said after the nominations.

In the run-up to the nomination, Keter faced a Herculean task from UDA leaders who pitched camp in the constituency to campaign for Kitur.

Keter, in the past, had been got in cross-hairs with Deputy President William Ruto after he fiercely criticised the DP and cast aspersions on his race for the top seat.

However, after realising his opposition did not go well with his constituents, Keter beat a hasty retreat and announced his support for DP Ruto, even seeking to defend his seat on UDA.

“I’m for Ruto’s presidency, and it’s my hope he will be elected our fifth president in August because I respect him as our community leader, and I will be campaigning for him,” he stated.

Keter, while opting to vie as an independent, expressed his displeasure with UDA’s decision to hand the ticked to his competitor.

“I’m warning them (UDA) of a humiliating defeat in the election because I will defend my seat as an independent candidate,” Keter said.

During a recent visit to Nandi, DP Ruto’s running-mate Rigathi Gachagua urged the residents to vote for UDA aspirants and ignore independents who are out to spoil the party in the coming polls.

Party support

UDA legislators have also previously accused Keter of disrespecting and attacking DP Ruto, hence their decision to back Kitur.

Gachagua, while speaking in Nandi Hills town, pleaded with the electorates to support a UDA MP.

“This is the DP’s political bastion, and we do not expect you to let him down. Keter is my friend and I promise you that we shall give him other government positions when the Kenya Kwanza alliance wins the presidential election,” he said. Rigathi, who stood alongside Kitur, called upon residents to end their political differences and embrace the UDA party.

Kitur said the Nandi Hills constituency is a UDA zone, arguing that electing him would help him implement the stalled projects in the region.

“We have been on the wrong side of the government for a long but this time around, if elected, I would ensure the bottom-up economic initiatives would benefit youths through empowerment programmes,” he said.

In 2018, Justice Kanyi Kimondo nullified the election of Keter, citing voter irregularities in a petition filed by Richard Kemei, a voter and businessman.

The court had noted that there were instances of campaigns outside the recommended period which were reported to the IEBC but no action was taken.

However, Kitur’s celebrations were cut short by the Court of Appeal, which reversed the decision by the High Court and gave a lease of life to Keter. The Court of Appeal held that the alleged campaigns which were conducted outside the time did not affect the final outcome of the elections.

Keter was born and brought up in Ollessos village, Nandi County. He attended Cheplelachbei Primary School and then Kapsabet High School.