Experience in governance and elders’ influence are among the factors that are likely to determine who will be elected governor of Elgeyo Marakwet. Five of the six aspirants who have joined the race to succeed Governor Alex Tolgos are seeking the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket, an indication that, the battle will either be won or lost during the party’s April nominations.
Those eyeing the UDA ticket are Deputy Governor Wisley Rotich, former Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet, immediate former Eldoret National Polytechnic boss Josphat Sawe, businessman Sammy Tangus and university lecturer Loice Jemencho.
Every indication is that the race has attracted top guns in politics and management.
Anthony Chelimo, a businessman who has revived the National Vision Party which was led by former powerful Cabinet minister Nicholas Biwott, is seeking to capture the governorship position through the revamped outfit. He is the current NVP party leader.
The governor aspirants are promising to bring change to Kerio Valley, a region that has been ravaged by banditry. They are planning to do this through peace initiatives and irrigation projects in the region, which is among the leading producers of mangoes.
They are also positioning themselves as problem-solvers of the many challenges farmers are facing, particularly in the potato sub-sector which has been hit by low prices occasioned by exploitation by middlemen.
The contest boils down to who has the experience to competently run the county’s affairs.
Elders have been seeking to broker a truce among the aspirants, a move that led to the stepping down of former Keiyo South MP Jackson Kiptanui in favour of Boinnet. Kiptanui is now battling it out with incumbent Daniel Rono for the Keiyo South constituency parliamentary seat.
The move, however, sparked sharp divisions among elders, with one faction calling for the withdrawal of certain candidates in favour of others and another group recommending an open field for aspirants to seek votes.
Rotich, who was a director of cooperatives before being elevated to the current position in 2017, said he would roll out a master plan aimed at reviving the county’s economy through cooperative societies.
The deputy governor, a close ally of Deputy President William Ruto, said he would work closely with the national government to restore peace in Kerio Valley.
Rotich said he would have a model health facility in each of the county’s 20 wards, which would be well-equipped to reduce congestion at the Iten County Referral Hospital.
Boinnet said he would use his experience as Inspector General of Police to restore peace in Kerio Valley if elected. He retired as IG in 2019. The region has been devastated by persistent banditry attacks.
The immediate former Tourism Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) said the county is famous for producing world-beaters in athletics, pledging to turn the sport’s potential into a tool to attract tourists to the devolved unit.
“I believe we can also be champion producers of potatoes, wool, mutton. If we pull our resources, we can be the prime producers of Elgeyo Marakwet lambs,” Boinnet said.
Sawe, the former Eldoret national Polytechnic, said he would ensure equity in service delivery and employment if elected governor.
“Elgeyo Marakwet is a rich county, endowed with resources. We plan to do value addition for the mangoes produced along the Kerio Valley. We will also exploit tourism and mining, which will result in job creation,” he said.
Sawe said he would mobilise resources from foreign investors and additional funding from the national government to achieve legacy projects. He retired as Principal in January this year. “We have identified insecurity blackspots such as Tot, Kapkobil, Sambalat, and Chesongoch in the Kerio Valley. We will ensure that there are more police stations in those areas,” Sawe said.
Tangus said he would offer mature leadership, adding that he would work with the national government to restore peace in the volatile Kerio Valley, noting that it would be difficult to develop the area before taming banditry.
“Our economy is driven by agriculture. If elected, I will revive cash crops such as pyrethrum in the highlands and cotton in the lowlands,” Tangus said.
He said his 17 years in government as an engineer and 15 years in the private sector gives him the right experience to govern.
Dr Jemencho said her main reason for contesting was to battle the high level of poverty in the county.
“I want to prudently use our resources and also approach international partners for resources in my quest to create wealth and make Elgeyo Marakwet better,” Jemenjo said.
Chelimo of NVP said he has been engaging locals and grassroots leaders in town hall meetings. “I have been crisscrossing the county, explaining our agenda. Our main focus is growing talent through sports and growing the economy through agri-business,” the businessman said.