UDA faces tough task of winning seat in Ruto's home constituency

Turbo MP candidate Richard Kemboi, is vying for the seat on the Cyrus Jirongo-led UDP party. [Standard]

Deputy President William Ruto faces the daunting task of ensuring UDA wins the Turbo parliamentary seat in Uasin Gishu County.

Turbo is Ruto’s home constituency where in the last election, voters defied the Jubilee Party wave to elect an independent candidate.

The DP represented the constituency, then known as Eldoret North, for 15 years from 1997 to 2013 when he was elected to the presidency together with President Uhuru Kenyatta. The constituency was split giving birth to Kapseret, Turbo and Soy. 

In the 2017 elections, Janet Sitienei won the seat on an independent ticket against Jubilee Party’s Kevin Okwara while William Chepkut won as an independent in the neighbouring Ainabkoi constituency.

Ms Sitienei, who clinched the UDA ticket after defeating four competitors in the party primaries, will face off with businessman and philanthropist Richard Kemboi who is vying on former Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo’s United Democratic Party (UDP), an affiliate of the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya.

Others in the race are Sammy Mugo (Jubilee), Benjamin Magerer (independent) and Willy Korir (independent). The incumbent MP has pleaded with losers in the nominations to support her bid to ensure UDA wins the seat.

“I urge my competitors in the UDA nominations to join hands with me. I have done well in my first term and I deserve a second one which I believe that the people of Turbo will give me,” said Ms Sitienei. 

The first-time MP is, however, facing strong competition from Mr Kemboi who is running for the seat for the second time and has attracted a huge following because of his philanthropy.

The businessman with interests in Kenya and Uganda has promised to use his ‘deep pockets’ to change the fortunes of locals. He says the area has lagged behind despite supporting the government.

Turbo MP Janet Sitienei Rotich addresses supporters at Eldoret National Polytechnic in Uasin Gishu County on August 11, 2017. [Boniface Okendo,Standard]

“We are an agriculture-rich constituency and our people have been neglected all along. I want, if elected, to dedicate my efforts towards changing the lives of our people by ensuring water provision, road networks and upgrading most of the schools which are in a poor state,” said Kemboi.

The UDP candidate has promised to support single and teenage mothers and orphans in the constituency.

“Once elected, I will use my salary to improve the lives of the vulnerable. I will set up a special fund to assist single mothers with capital to startup businesses and take teenage mothers back to school,” Mr Kemboi said.

Nothing personal

In what has stirred debate, the UDP candidate says he supports Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga for the presidency but has nothing personal against Ruto.

“People want change. Everybody wants better leadership than what we have seen in Uhuru and Ruto for 10 years and you saw how the Azimio la Umoja running mate Martha Karua was well received in Eldoret town. I believe Raila can be a better leader,” said Mr Kemboi. Mugo, who is vying on the Jubilee party, promised to empower youths if elected MP. 

“My interest will be to uplift youth and women,” he said. Mugo unsuccessfully vied for Huruma Ward Rep in 2017 on Jubilee.

Gilbert Kipchirchir, a resident of Kosachei, said there was no guarantee that the UDA candidate will be elected.

“Let no one be cheated that this is a UDA zone. Anybody can be elected just like in 2017, the ground has shifted owing to the high cost of living and farming equipment,” said Mr Kipchirchir.

Mrs Rine Kiptum, a businesswoman in Eldoret town said the contest will not be of parties but individuals.

“Voters are looking for individuals’ track records. Party euphoria will not determine the Turbo MP election,” said Mrs Kiptum, a resident of Tapsagoi village.

In 2017, 16 aspirants sought the Jubilee Party ticket, the majority of whom were from the local Kalenjin community, giving Okwara an advantage to edge them out in the primaries.

The losers contested the nomination outcome and coalesced together to front a candidate as an independent, presumably to deny Okwara, a Luhya, the seat.