Rift Valley leaders in silent revolt over ‘unfair’ Jubilee campaign team

Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso addresses women supporters at Kaplong Deliverance Church when she led Jubilee Women MPs in a tour of Bomet County last month. [PHOTO: file/STANDARD]

Questions have been raised over the 61-member team that will steer Jubilee Party (JP) campaigns as it emerged that key Rift Valley counties were overlooked.

In the list that has the who-is-who in the JP political hierarchy, not a single politician from Nandi, Kericho, Uasin Gishu, Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet, the political bedrock of Deputy President William Ruto, was included in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s 2017 campaign secretariat.

It is not clear what issues were considered in constituting the team as key Rift Valley leaders were left out. Expectations in the Rift Valley were that a key party campaign team such as the one unveiled by President Kenyatta and his deputy would have a greater presence of leaders from the key stronghold.

In the list read to party members during a Special National Delegate Congress (NDC) at the Bomas of Kenya recently, National Assembly Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso (Bomet), Senator John Munyes (Turkana) and Woman Representatives Joyce Emanikor (Turkana), Soipan Tuya (Narok) and Janet Nangabo (Trans Nzoia) were chosen as representatives of the populous Rift Valley region.

Kanu factor

Others are West Pokot Governor Simon Kachapin, Loitoktok MP Katoo Ole Metito, Nakuru County Assembly Speaker Susan Kihika and chairman of People With Disability (PWD) David Sankok.

In the larger Kalenjin region, only Laboso and Kachapin represent Ruto’s political base. The Jubilee coalition draws 41 governors, senators and MPs from the five Kalenjin counties of Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nandi, Kericho and Uasin Gishu, as well as Rongai, Kuresoi North and South constituencies.

Kaseret Member of County Assembly Pauline Tuwei says some of the notable personalities who should have been considered are Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago, Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and his Nandi counterpart Stephen Sang.

“Who will speak to the people on the ground if notable leaders from the region have not been included?” wondered Ms Tuwei.

Longisa (Bomet) MCA Stephen Changmorik said the appointment of Laboso could be a strategy by JP to subdue the influence of Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto’s Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) party.

Changmorik believes Laboso’s appointment may be an attempt to tame the Bomet governor and hopefully claw back the gains he has made with his party in the county. Eleven Members of the County Assembly (MCA) from Bomet defected to CCM when URP dissolved into JP.

Similarly, Kanu’s significant influence in West Pokot could have informed the selection of Governor Kachapin.

But Laboso’s inclusion in the team was not received kindly in the South Rift. “The National Assembly Deputy Speaker could not deliver Nyangores ward seat to Jubilee during the by-election. It would be too much to expect her to deliver Bomet where CCM is gaining popularity by day, Kericho, Nandi, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet and Baringo,” said Longisa.

Laboso has dismissed these concerns, saying she is up to the task. “It is an opportunity to prove that Jubilee has able leaders who can deliver and there is no doubt,” Laboso said.

Nakuru Assembly Speaker Kihika’s appointment has also been criticised in some quarters.

“She needs to know that she cannot deliver the presidential votes alone, she must seek to reconcile and work with all leaders including aspiring candidates,” Nakuru Senator James Mungai said.

Nakuru Town East MP David Gikaria wants Kihika to focus on unifying leaders in her county whose divergent views have often led to fractious battles in and out of the assembly, a step the county assembly speaker agrees is necessary.

Political newcomers

“The campaign must start by bringing the factions together, especially in Nakuru County where we had started to see divisions over the party leadership,” Gikaria said.

Kihika, who has announced that she will vie for the Nakuru Senate seat, said unifying other leaders will be her main focus.

“I am determined to ensure sure that the presidential campaign in the region runs smoothly and everyone is on board,” she said.

Away from the Kalenjin nation, apart from Munyes and Ole Metito, Nangabo, Tuya, Kihika and Emanikor are political newcomers.

But according to political analyst and head of communication department at the University of Eldoret Philip Chebunet, Jubilee did not consider Kanu’s growing influence in the region in making appointments to the 61-member team.

“When you pick on Kachapin who is facing hostility from his people who seem to favor Senator Lonyangapuo and he is likely to lose the gubernatorial seat, you add no value to the campaign,” observed Chebunet.

Whoever drew the list, he said, was doing a great dis-service to the DP and his 2022-ambition by leaving out seasoned Rift Valley politicians who will feel their efforts have gone unappreciated.