Independent candidates defy calls to step aside for UDA ticket holders

Announcement of final poll results disrupted by supporters of different aspirants at Kabarnet Deaf and Blind school during the UDA nominations. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Independent candidates from North Rift have defied calls to drop their bids in favour of United Democratic Alliance candidates.

Calls by UDA leader and Deputy President William Ruto, his running mate Rigathi Gachagua and other allies and supporters of the six-piece voting pattern say the plan has been compromised.

Some independent candidates who spoke to The Standard blamed botched UDA nominations, rampant favouritism and a dysfunctional UDA tribunal.

The candidates include Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills), Stephen Kewa (Kapseret), Cornelly Serem (Aldai), Vincent Tuwei (Mosop), Timothy Kipchumba Torotich (Marakwet West), Caroline Ng’elechey (Woman Representative Elgeyo Marakwet) and Dr Tecla Tum (Emgwen).

Others are former Nandi Governor Cleophas Lagat and James Teko (Pokot South). They are hoping to dethrone UDA candidates in the polls.

“I won fair and square, but my victory was deliberately stolen from me against the wishes of the Nandi Hills electorate. Power brokers within UDA are eliminating objective leaders,” Mr Keter said.

Mr Kewa, who is an independent candidate in Kapseret, said from the onset he did not have a chance against incumbent Oscar Sudi.

Mr Serem accused UDA officials whom he said pushed them to vie as independent candidates following shoddy nominations.

In his last visit to the region earlier this month, Mr Gachagua drummed up support for the six-piece vote pattern in North Rift “to push the agenda of the bottom-up economic model”.

He said: “We urge all residents to vote through the six-piece pattern. We need numbers to push the UDA agenda in Parliament.”

With party officials panicking, the independent candidates say they are getting calls from “highly placed individuals” to leave the race.

“I have received many phone calls from high-placed individuals who have attempted to talk me out of the race. They are now calling my closest allies to rope them into talking me out of the race,” Ms Ng’elechey said.

Dipped ratings

Serem (Aldai) said UDA ratings have dipped because the party spent a lot of time in running smear campaigns against independents instead of campaigning against its competitors.

“Independent candidates who refuse to give way to UDA candidates are targeted,” he said. The independent candidates said some UDA officials have now branded them Azimio supporters for choosing not to step down.

“The party is dismissing independent candidates as of no consequence, but why are they panicking?” the Nandi Hills legislator said.

He added: “I support Ruto’s candidacy but condemn the elements within UDA who are running the party as a private outfit, the party does not want individuals who are objective.” Dr Lagat urged residents not to treat them as Azimio sympathisers. In Kapseret, five independent candidates are fighting to dethrone the incumbent Sudi.

In Nandi, Tum (Emgwen), Serem (Aldai), Tuwei (Mosop) are among sitting MPs who say the party rigged them out. They are now vying as independent candidates.

Four Independent candidates are in the race to unseat the incumbent governor Stephen Sang while more than 20 MCAs have gone independent in attempts to seek re-election after failing in the UDA nominations.

Sham nomination

“The nomination process was a sham. The tribunal failed in its role,” Dr Tum said. In Elgeyo Marakwet, Ms Ng’elechey, who lost in the Woman Representative UDA nominations, is hoping to unseat the incumbent and UDA nominee Jane Kiptoo (Chebaibai).

“Our attempts as Elgeyo Marakwet UDA aspirants to address the issue of rigged nominations were quashed in the most abrasive manner,” she said.

She added, “I support UDA and the Ruto presidency, but I do not support a few power brokers who have been allowed to run the party down.”

The independent candidates say a majority of the electorate did not participate in the nominations and that the August election will paint the true picture of the wishes of the North Rift voter.