Race for Mandago seat hots up as 2022 nears

Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi, Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago, Deputy President William Ruto, Kesses MP Swarrup Mishra and Senator Margaret Kamar during the burial of former Councillor Elijah Maina at Tarakwa in Eldoret on Friday. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

With less than two years to the next General Election, campaigns are gaining momentum for Uasin Gishu governor's seat.

Political temperatures are already rising in the cosmopolitan region considered as Deputy President William Ruto's political bastion, with a dozen aspirants jostling to succeed Governor Jackson Mandago who is serving his final term.

With the ban on political gatherings in force, the aspirants have taken to social media, trying to outfox one another and win support from the over half a million voters in the county.

One of the those who have declared interest in the seat is businessman Zedekiah Bundotich Kiprop, alias Buzeki, who in 2017 gave Mandago a run for his money.

The others include Julius Bitok, Nairobi County environment executive Veska Kangogo, Eldoret businessman Jonathan Bii, former Teachers Service Commission (TSC) vice-chair Cleophas Tirop and Uasin Gishu County Assembly Chief Whip David Singoei.

Soy MP Caleb Kositany and County Assembly Speaker David Kiplagat are also said to be eyeing the seat.

Battle lines have been drawn, with factions emerging. One faction is hanging on Ruto's clout while the other is coming out as independent candidates.

The county is a predominantly Kalenjin community, with Nandi and Keiyo sub-tribes in a perceived supremacy battle.

Governor Mandago, Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi and Kositany have been moving around the county, rallying residents to elect only candidates championing Ruto's 2022 presidential bid.

Over the weekend, Buzeki, Bitok, Singoei and Bii attempted to outdo each other in the presence of the DP on why they should be elected. They were at a funeral in Kesses Constituency.

Bitok, Singoei and Bii, despite claiming they have manifestos to alleviate the socio-economic challenges experienced in the region, all urged the residents to back them because they support Ruto.

But Buzeki was cagey to invoke the DP's name, instead rallying the electorate to elect him based on his manifesto.

“I am not a sycophant and anybody who thinks Buzeki can be intimidated in his quest to bring meaningful development to the people of Uasin Gishu will be shocked,” he told The Standard in a recent interview. "I am resolute in my political journey and let the leaders meet me at the grassroots."