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Anger as DP Ruto handpicks candidate to challenge Gideon

By Alex Kiprotich | January 4th 2017
Betting Control and Licensing Board member Simon Chelugui addresses residents of Kisanana in Mogotio sub-county last July, when he declared his interest in the Baringo governorship. [PHOTO: File]

The rivalry between Deputy President William Ruto and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi has climbed a notch higher after the former prevailed on a candidate to challenge the senator in the August elections.

Betting Control and Licensing Board member Simon Chelugui, who was seen as a frontrunner for the governor's seat in the county, was last Tuesday forced to abandon his quest and go for the Senate seat instead.

During a meeting at Mr Ruto's Sugoi home, Mr Chelugui dropped his quest for the governorship, to the shock of his supporters who took to social media to vent their anger.

The Tuesday meeting was a follow-up of another held earlier where over 1,000 Baringo residents were invited to Ruto's home, where the DP and elected county leaders put pressure on Chelugui to step down from contesting the governorship and instead challenge Gideon.

"The DP was very clear that Gideon had to be tamed and the only person to face him was Chelugui. This was supported by all leaders present," said a Bernard Kipruto, who was among those who attended the meeting.

The leaders who supported the DP included Governor Ben Cheboi who would have faced off with Chelugui in the Jubilee Party primaries, MPs Sammy Mwaita (Baringo Central), Grace Kiptui (Woman Representative), Asman Kamama (Tiaty), William Cheptumo (Baringo North) and Eldama Ravine's Moses Lessonet.

Chelugui led a delegation of 200 from all six sub-counties of Baringo to meet the DP at his Sugoi home where he was endorsed to run for the Senate.

According to those who attended the meeting, the DP promised to fund Chelugui to face Gideon in what is being seen as Ruto's strategy to test the senator's strength in preparation for the 2022 elections.

"The DP was clear that all the MPs must support his choice for Baringo senator and those against would be dealt with," said a source who attended the meeting.

In the event that Chelugui loses the elections, he was promised a senior position in the Jubilee administration if it is re-elected in the August 8 General Election.

In a statement yesterday, Chelugui said he had consulted the DP alongside elders from the six sub-counties.

"As part of my leadership aspirations in Baringo, I consulted the DP, alongside our elders drawn from across our six sub-counties on various issues and concerns affecting us. Various ideas, proposals and approaches were discussed and a way forward developed," he said.

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Chelugui's move has angered Baringo residents who castigated the DP for extending his fight against the senator to dictating to county leaders.

In the 2013 elections, Ruto sponsored Bishop Jacob Kosgei against Gideon but bishop was trounced by a huge margin.

Historian Walter Chesang said it was in bad taste for the DP to use his position to settle scores with the former First Family.

"What the DP is doing is using the innocent voter in Baringo to settle political scores with the son of the former President whom he sees as a threat to his 2022 presidential ambitions," he said.

Chesang added that it was wrong for the DP to handpick leaders for Baringo instead of allowing democracy to flourish.

Following the decision by Ruto to back Chelugui, an aspirant for the senatorial seat, Samuel Cheraisi, withdrew, saying he was not going to participate in the party primaries where one aspirant had already been identified as the preferred Jubilee candidate.

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