President Uhuru Kenyatta’s recent appointments of notable politicians from Rift Valley to head various State agencies and corporations has been viewed as a move to shore up Jubilee’s fortunes in the region.
With the resurgence of Kanu, and growing criticism of Deputy President William Ruto’s development record in the Rift Valley, some politicians see the appointments as a strategy to appease voters in the region and consolidate support for Jubilee.
According to analysts, some of the politicians who benefited in the recent appointments were perceived to be leaning towards Kanu.
“There were already murmurs that some senior people who supported Jubilee in 2013 were softening towards Kanu,” said Kuresoi South MP Zakayo Cheruiyot.
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Prominent individuals from Kericho, Baringo, Bomet, Narok and Nandi counties — areas where Kanu had made significant inroads — were among the most heavily rewarded. Those appointed include former Cabinet ministers Franklin Bett and Henry Kosgey, who decamped from ODM, and Musa Sirma.
But it is the appointment of six individuals from Baringo County that has raised eyebrows.
Analysts say the appointments of Dr Daniel Tuitoek (Nema), Simon Pepe Kitambaa (National Council for Population and Development Fund), Simon Chelugui (Betting Board), Susan Chesyna (Kenya Power) and Elijah Kimanyim (RVWSB) is purely a political manoeuvre.
“Some of the appointees from Baringo, Kericho and Nandi counties were may have been working with Kanu,” observes Ben Siele, political activist and chairman of a professional caucus in the South Rift region.
All the appointees contested in 2013 General Election.
Bett, a former roads minister in the Grand Coalition Government, was appointed chairman of the Agriculture Finance Corporation not long after he threatened to decamp from Jubilee in response to what he said was a flawed nomination process in the run-up to Kericho county’s senatorial by election.
Bett is among those whose names have emerged as possible contenders for the Kericho gubernatorial seat currently held by Governor Paul Chepkwony.
Prof Chepkwony fell out with the DP when he joined his Bomet counterpart Isaac Ruto in a push to amend the Constitution through a referendum to increase the budgetary allocation to counties under the Pesa Mashinani lobby.
Although he recently returned to the fold, he has been kept at arms length by those in the inner sanctum of power. Another notable appointment was that of former Industrialisation Cabinet Minister Henry Kosgey, who is the new chairman of the Tourism Fund board.
Kosgey’s appointment came amid talk that he was warming up to join Jubilee with an eye on the Nandi gubernatorial seat. Political observers say that Uhuru and his deputy have formally kicked off their re-election bid by identifying dependable political pillars to champion the Jubilee agenda and back the President’s bid for a second term in 2017.
“The President and his deputy want to endear themselves to the people. They have seen the need to contain the disquiet among URP leaders and supporters in the region and also to counter Kanu’s growing popularity in the Rift Valley,” says political scientist Philip Chebunet.
It is instructive that leaders in the South Rift complained of being marginalised because public appointments have tended to be skewed to favour those from the TNA wing of the ruling coalition.
Other appointments include that of the DP’s lawyer Katwa Kigen to chair the Unclaimed Assets Authority, and Jackson Selela Ole Mwanik who moves to the Ewaso Ngiro South Development Authority.
Dr Julius Kones, another notable political figure from the Rift Valley, saw his contract as Chairman of National Water Conservation and Pipeline Corporation renewed. Kones contested the Bomet gubernatorial seat in the last elections. He is among who may be considered by the Jubilee top leadership to take on governor Ruto who has confirmed he plans to form another party.
During a thanks-giving ceremony for Aaron Cheruiyot, newly-elected Kericho senator, Ruto told Jubilee supporters that he was determined to maintain his political hold on the Rift Valley voting bloc and warned rebels in URP to toe the party line or ship out.
But West Pokot Senator Prof John Lonyang’apuo (Kanu) says Jubilee was running scared of the party’s forays in the Rift. “It shows how frustrated the Jubilee party is. We are telling them they will not succeed,” says Lonyang’apuo. He is asking Kanu supporters not to be swayed by the appointments, which he dismisses as ceremonial.
National Assembly Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso, however, dismisses the notion that the appointments were done to appease the region.
“State appointments are done on merit. I do not think there is anything wrong with that,” she said.