Battle looms in DP William Ruto backyard as aspirants scramble for UDA ticket

Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok welcomes CCM Party officials defecting to UDA at a Bomet Hotel. [Gilbert Kimutai,Standard]

Going by the number of those who have thrown themselves in the ring for the governor’s seat in Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) in Rift Valley, it will be a tough battle.

If the stampede for tickets is anything to go by, UDA could be bracing itself for bruising primaries.

Already, several aspirants for the governorship seat are pulling all stops to clinch the party’s ticket.

Rift Valley is considered Ruto’s political bedrock and those interested in various elective seats are likely to associate themselves with him or the UDA party.

The battle for the UDA ticket is vicious at all levels but more intense in the race for governorship in all 14 counties.

Pundits agree that some of the factors likely to influence the outcome of various electives seats in 2022 include the choice of the political party, close association with the DP among other campaign strategies.

“As the Jubilee Party fortunes continue to dwindle in Rift Valley, those of the UDA, which is associated with Ruto, seem to rise. Every serious politician in the region who is eyeing an elective position must work around those facts,” says Philip Chebunet, a University of Eldoret lecturer and a political analyst.

True to this, a number of politicians have bowed to pressure from voters to join UDA or support Ruto’s presidential bid.

In Bomet County, former governor Isaac Ruto is under pressure from voters to fold his Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) party and join UDA after he declared support for Ruto’s presidential bid.

Ruto (Isaac) has remained adamant that he would not ditch his CCM party.

For now, the contest for the UDA ticket will be between Governor Hilary Barchok, Senator Christopher Langat, and Cabinet Administration Secretary in the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining John Mosonik.

All of them have pledged to support the DP’s bid to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta. It is believed that the one who will get the UDA ticket is assured of the seat.

Analysts say the former governor’s main undoing will be his CCM party, which they argue will face a tough time to outshine UDA that is fast gaining popularity in the region.

“As long as Isaac is still holding onto his CCM party, the UDA wave which is building up in the county may turn the tables against him and keep him longer in political cold,” says Raymond Langat, a political commentator. Baringo Governor Stanley Kiptis is likely to square it out in UDA primaries with his predecessor Benjamin Cheboi, Baringo County Assembly Clerk CPA Richard Koech, Geoffrey Kiptoo, Eldama Ravine MP Moses Lessonet, Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui, and Wildlife Principal Secretary Fred Segor.

DP Ruto’s allies in Narok are set for a major face-off for the UDA party ticket for the gubernatorial seat.  

Three legislators among them Soipan Tuya (Woman Rep), Korea ole Lemein (Narok South), Gabriel Tongoyo (Narok West), and Labour CAS Patrick ole Ntutu have declared their interests in the seat.

The growing number of candidates is putting DP Ruto’s political support in limbo in Narok as all the aspirants seeking to take over from Governor Samuel Tunai hail from the populous Purko community. 

According to a scholar Patu Naikumi, failure for DP Ruto allies to settle on one candidate ahead of 2022 will spelling doom for him.

“For Ruto to solidify the Narok swing vote, he must unite his troops,” said Dr Patu.

In Uasin Gishu County, about 10 politicians have shown interest in capturing the UDA ticket to succeed Governor Jackson Mandago.

They include Kenyan Ambassador to Pakistan Julius Bittok, Nairobi County executive for Devolution, Veskah Kangogo, Soy MP Caleb Kositany, Jonathan Bii, David Kemei, an economist, former Teachers Service Commission Commissioner Cleophas Tirop, and Mr David Singoe.

The aspirants who spoke to Sunday Standard say they are confident the party will observe democratic ideals and stage a nomination process.

But some fear that sitting MPS who are close to DP may take advantage and undermine their competitors at the primaries.

“All aspirants should be treated equally. The issue of who has been in the trenches with the DP for long should not arise. We should avoid politics of cronyism,” said Kemei.

In Nandi, Governor Stephen Sang will be defending his seat against a host of other candidates who have declared interest in the UDA ticket .

Local leaders, who are also marketing ideals of UDA have however isolated Sang and often campaign against his bid for a second term in 2022.

Senator Kiprotich Cherargei, Cornely Serem (Aldai), Vincent Tuwei (Mosop), and Julius Melly (Tinderet) have teamed up in criticising Sang’s performance since his elections in 2017.

Sang was first elected Senator in 2013, but he is now facing a tough challenge from Allan Kosgey, a Nairobi lawyer who is the son of former Cabinet Minister and Tinderet MP Henry Kosgey.

Allan has lately participated in UDA membership recruitment drives across Nandi.

Allan, former two-term Chesumei legislator Elijah Lagat, CEO of Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya Japhter Rugut, former Kenya Pipeline Company employee Antipas Tirop are among those who have come out strongly campaigning on a UDA platform.

Additional reporting by Robert Kiplagat