How 2022 gubernatorial races are taking shape in south rift counties

Deputy President William Ruto and former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto. [DPPS]

Aspirants are already giving incumbent governors in the South Rift sleepless nights as races to succeed county chiefs serving their final terms hot up.

An election fever is sweeping through Bomet, Narok, Kericho, Nakuru and Nyandarua counties where a former governor, a Cabinet secretary, senators and senior civil servants are scheming to either succeed outgoing governors or unseat those serving their first terms.

Former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto is one of the aspirants plotting a political comeback after five years in the cold.

The Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) leader, who failed to recapture the seat in 2017 after falling out with Deputy President William Ruto, is correcting the political mistakes he made in the run up to the last General Election.

Recently, he made it clear that he will work with the DP to keep his political ambitions alive. “I will support you for the top seat, as I also go for the governor position,” Isaac told Ruto during a function in Bomet County two weeks ago.

His plan to unseat Governor Hilary Barchok, who took over after the death of Dr Joyce Laboso, entails supporting Ruto’s 2022 presidential ambition.

In the neighbouring Narok County, the battle to succeed Governor Samuel Tunai who is serving his final term is likely to degenerate into clan politics.

The populous Purko clan has given all indications that it would seek a third stab at the governorship after two previous false starts.

The county politics revolves around the Purko, Moitanik, Siria and Uasin Gishu clans that are domiciled there.

The Purko, which is the majority, has lost the race twice – in 2013 and 2017 – to Tunai, a Siria. The clan dominates Narok North, South, West and parts of Narok East constituencies.

Leaders from the clan have been aligned to ODM leader Raila Odinga, but in the recent past they seem to be reading from a different script.

In 2013, the Purko produced Senator Stephen ole Ntutu. In 2017 they produced MPs Korei Lemein (Narok South), Moitalel ole Kenta of Narok North and Narok West’s Gabriel ole Tongoyo.

Ruto seems to be keen on recapturing Narok, which President Uhuru Kenyatta lost to Raila in 2013 and 2017 elections.

Heaping praises

While attending the funeral of Labour Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Patrick Ntutu’s mother recently, the DP immersed himself in the Narok governorship politics by heaping praises on Ntutu.

Ntutu, a Purko, decamped from Ruto’s faction in 2017 and faced off with Jubilee’s Tunai and came second on a CCM ticket, while ODM’s Joseph Tiampati, also from Purko clan, came third.

“Patrick (Ntutu) is my friend. He was one of my soldiers in United Republican Party (URP) but in the last elections he wandered and got lost. Despite that, we deemed it fit to appoint him CAS and going forward we hope he will not miscalculate his moves this time round,” said the DP. Others outside the clan include the Sunkuli brothers, Devolution PS Charles and businessman Andrew Sunkuli from Moitanik clan in Trans Mara, who have also thrown their hats into the ring.

Northwards in Kericho County, Governor Paul Chepkwony is serving his last term in office and talk is rife that his likely successor will be Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter.

However, Keter is yet to announce his candidature for the seat that Senator Aaron Cheruiyot is said to be salivating for.

Political statements

“The time to make political statements will come. For now, my focus is in helping the government deliver the development agenda through connecting more Kenyans to the national grid,” said Keter at a recent public event in the county.

Cheruiyot, who took over from Keter in the 2016 by-election, was cagey about his ambition, but he is said to be considering switching seats.

Also in the race is former Kipkelion MP Magerer Langat who also served as an assistant Energy minister in the Grand Coalition Government before losing his seat in the 2013 General Election.

“As President Uhuru Kenyatta will be packing to go on retirement in 2022, so will Governor Paul Chepkwony who I would like to succeed,” he recently said in Londiani. 

Others eyeing the seat are Fred Kirui who lost to Chepkwony in 2017 and university lecturer Erick Mutai.

In Nyandarua County, the supremacy battle between Governor Francis Kimemia and County Assembly Speaker Ndgewa Wahome is linked to the 2022 governor race.

Wahome has openly accused Kimemia of having no development record for the three years he has been in office.

Kimemia, on the other hand, vowed in a public event last year that he must have the speaker impeached. And recently, the MCAs attempted to impeach Wahome, but the court stopped the process. It remains to be seen if Wahome will face the governor in the ballot for the county top seat. 

In Nakuru, the governor race is shaping up as a battle between Governor Lee Kinyanjui and Senator Susan Kihika.

Kihika is a loyal supporter of the hustlers movement and will heavily rely on the support of the DP to unseat Kinyanjui.

She has in the recent past embarked on a rigorous tour of the county, meeting various groups and laying strategy for her campaign.

“She has been attending social events, where she does not fail to point out failures of Kinyanjui’s administration and at the same time market herself as an alternative to a regime that she describes as insensitive to the people’s needs,” said an MCA working closely with the senator.

However, the governor would not go down without a fight. Kinyanjui is confident that he will get a second term because he says he has delivered most of his pre-election pledges.

“My development record speaks for itself. I have delivered in almost all areas in accordance to what I promised Nakuru residents during the campaigns. And we will continue doing so. It is important that those in office are allowed to deliver on their mandate,” he told The Sunday Standard.

[Additional reporting by Robert Kiplagat and Nikko Tanui]