At least seven aspirants will be battling to succeed Kilgoris MP Mr Gideon Konchellah, who has shifted gears and focus to the Narok senatorial seat.
When launching his bid at his Olalui home recently, Mr Konchellah thanked residents of Kilgoris for allowing him to serve them as their MP for the last 20 years, and urged them to propel him to the Senate.
Those seeking to succeed Mr Konchellah are former Internal Security Minister Mr Julius Sunkuli, former National Environment Management Authority (Nema) board chairperson Mr John Dalton Konchellah, and former Rift Valley Education Director Mr John Ololtua.
Others are businessman Mr Joel Tasur, former Kilgoris CDF chairperson Mr Davis Dikirr, former National Intelligence Service officer Mr Richard Kelele, and Mr Shadrach Sabaya, a former secondary school teacher.
During the event, Mr Konchellah said he would not endorse any of the contestants. “I want the residents of Kilgoris to be at liberty to choose their MP,” he said.
As has been the case over the years, clans will play a key role in determining the outcome of the elections in the region, with Uasin Gishu, Moitanik, and Siria being major influencers.
The aspirants are also making efforts to catch the attention of the Kipsigis community that also forms a major voting bloc.
President Mr Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President Dr William Ruto, who have homes and farms in the constituency, are also said to be keen to have their allies elected in the constituency that is also home to the world-famous Masai Mara Game Reserve.
Mr Kenyatta is supporting ODM leader Raila Odinga for the presidency against Dr Ruto, who will be running on United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket. Raila is the Azimio la Umoja candidate in the August 9 polls.
Mr John Konchellah, who was the first elected MP of Kilgoris, came from Uasin Gishu clan. His predecessor, the late Francis Sompisha, came from Siria clan. Mr Julius Sunkuli, who was once an MP there, comes from Moitanik. The outgoing MP also comes from the Uasin Gishu clan.
The constituency, which is larger than the neighbouring Kisii and Nyamira counties put together, has six wards namely Kilgoris Central, Shankoe, Lolgorian, Kimintet, Keiyian, and Angata Barikoi - and had a total 67,079 registered voters in 2017, as per the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) register.
The constituency caught national attention during the 2007 General Election after IEBC ordered a fresh election to pick the MP after ballot boxes were destroyed, reportedly to stop Mr Johanna Ng’eno, who is from the Kipsigis community, as he was on the verge of winning. Members of the Maasai and Kisigis communities were keen to have one of their own take the seat.
Ahead of the by-election held in May 2008, Konchellah won against the current Emurua Dikirr MP Johana Ng’eno. Sunkuli supported Konchellah in the showdown after negotiations and was later appointed ambassador to China.
To avoid a similar clash between the two communities, Kilgoris was split into two when the boundaries review commission visited the area. Emurua Dikirr Constituency was created in 2013 and Mr Ng’eno elected the first MP.
Emurua Dikirr predominantly hosts members of the Kipsigis community, while most residents of Kilgoris are Maasai.
Mr Sunkuli, who is seeking to capture the seat on a Kanu ticket, believes he is best suited to take over from Mr Konchellah, having been an MP there between 1992 and 2002. In 2017, Mr Sunkuli (Kanu) finished second with 17,160 votes, behind Mr Konchellah (Jubilee) with 23,812 votes.
Other candidates were Richard Kelele of Chama Cha Mashinani, who got 7,017 votes, ODM’s Peter Morintat (3,801 votes), and Joseph Siparo who ran as an independent candidate, getting 1,803 votes.
“I have toured the six wards in Kilgoris Constituency over the last four years, listening to what residents want. I believe I am up to the task. I am asking them to give me the chance,” said Mr Sunkuli.
The former minister, who has been managing a private law firm since he lost the seat, says the Constituency Development Fund was not there during his tenure. “Each ward will get a fair share of development funds.”
“Among all those seeking to replace Konchellah, I am the only one who will get votes in every village due to my good development during the 10 years I was area MP,” he says.
The former Nema chairman is popularly known as Dalton to differentiate him from his uncle Mr John Konchellah, the first MP of the area , and the current (Gideon Konchellah), who is his cousin.
Dalton said if elected, he would deploy skills he had acquired in the public and private sectors to turn the constituency around.
Dalton, who served as the first Devolution PS when the Jubilee government was formed in 2013, says he will prioritise value addition to agricultural products.
The career banker, who will be seeking the Jubilee ticket, has told off those who have said he is riding on the development records of his uncle and cousin, saying: “I am my own man. I have worked hard to be where I am today. Instead of attacking me, let them tell residents of Kilgoris what they plan to do for them.”
“My uncle John Konchellah and cousin Gideon Konchellah have served the people of Kilgoris well as MPs and many residents believe our family has produced good leaders. I will serve them even better,” he said.
Mr Tasur, who is seeking the UDA ticket, has been traversing the constituency, sponsoring football tournaments over the last four years.
The businessman has said he will promote peaceful coexistence among all local communities.
“Peace is key. I will ensure members of the Maasai community live in peace with their Kipsigis, Kisii, Kuria, and Luo neighbours. We have been lagging behind in development because of conflicts. Not anymore,” said Mr Tasur.
Mr Dikirr believes his role as CDF chairperson during Gideon Konchellah’s tenure puts him ahead of his rivals. “I have played a crucial role in the implementation of projects during Konchellah’s tenure and I look forward to continuing the good work started by the veteran legislator,” said Mr Dikirr.
He added: “Over the last 20 years, Kilgoris has experienced tremendous development in education, health and agriculture. I plan to continue with the good work he started, having worked under him all that time.”
Mr Ololtua, who is also seeking the UDA ticket for the same seat, said he would prioritise education.
“We must take our children to school. We cannot have our children herding livestock at the expense of education.”
The former senior education officer said the current MP had done a good job and that his successor would have a huge task.
“The people of Kilgoris want a great leader and that is what I am bringing. My track record is clear across the country. I want to replicate this in Kilgoris,” said Mr Ololtua.
Mr Kelele, who comes from the Moitanik clan, vied for the seat on ODM ticket in 2013 and Chama Cha Mashinani in 2017, and lost. He believes he is better placed to take over from Mr Konchellah.
He says he wants to end marginalisation of some communities. “Some of the former MPs favoured their clans at the expense of others. This will not happen under my watch. The people are also tired of leaders who divide them, as that has affected development. They want a good leader as their next MP. I am that leader.”
Mr Sabaya believes the time has come for a young person to take over as the next MP. He says his main interest will be to champion wealth creation. “We need someone who can provide good leadership, then we can turn all the resources we have into wealth and empower our people socially and economically,” said Sabaya.