The Laikipia East parliamentary race is shaping up to be one of the most gruelling political contests in Mt Kenya region.
Former Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri is up against the incumbent Mohamed Amin Deddy and some of his (Kinjuri’s) erstwhile supporters, people who once supported his campaigns. Kiunjuri has served as MP and Cabinet minister.
The major concerns in the constituency, which covers the cosmopolitan garrison town of Nanyuki and extends into the peri-urban and rural areas, are lack of title deeds for land holding, acute shortage of water and fate of hundreds of residents living in Majengo and Likii slums.
Farmers in Muramati, Nginyii, among other parts in Daiga, are victims of human-wildlife conflict as the electric fence project failed despite having been allocated resources.
Local residents trek long distances in search of water during drought season as rogue large-scale farmers upstream divert rivers to their private dams.
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Laikipia is today one of the most popular settlement areas in Mt Kenya. Thousands of former squatter families from neighbouring Nyeri County were settled in the area by the government of late President Mwai Kibaki.
The constituency has 96,395 registered voters spread in Tigithi, Ngobit, Thingithu, Umande and Nanyuki wards. It is also home to the world renowned Ol Pajeta Conservancy, Ol Daiga Ranch, Mt Kenya Safari Club, Sportsman Arm Hotel and tens of private lodges.
After he was sacked from Agriculture and Livestock docket, Kiunjuri declared he would contest the parliamentary seat although it was widely believed he would vie for the presidency or the Laikipia governorship soon after he registered The Service Party (TSP).
A resident and a youth leader, Mr Francis Muraguri, from Umande Ward, said the constituency’s challenges include increased poverty, low electricity connection, youth unemployment and unending water shortage.
“The farmers are suffering as elephants and buffaloes have been destroying their high valued crops, with KWS failing to compensate them as policy demands. Our leaders have failed to push for compensation,” said Muraguri.
Kiunjuri entered into politics in 1997 and served in former President Mwai Kibaki and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Cabinets.
The constituency is home to several Kenya Defence Force (KDF) barracks and British Army Training Units (Batuk).
Besides Kiunjuri (TSP) and Deddy (UDA), other candidates in the race for the Laikipia East parliamentary seat are Simon Kingori Gachigua (ODM), Anthony Rukwaro Kanyua (Jubilee (Party) and Philip Ndegwa Mwangi (TND).
Others in the race are independent candidates David Muriithi Maina, Peter Muriu Mwangi, Samuel Kiumbia Mwangi and Dr David Wangui Njoroge.
Kiunjuri is banking on his past development record which includes tackling insecurity through the construction of police stations, and putting up offices for assistant county commissioners in Tigithi, Daiga, Ngobit among other facilities.
The former MP says in his 15-year service, he started more than 23 secondary schools, and put up dispensaries and health centres through the support of NG-CDF, friends, NGOs and funding from the national government.
“Allocation from NG-CDF alone cannot complete projects. Leaders are supposed to lobby for support from friends and government,” said Kiunjuri adding that the majority of roads he lobbied for upgrading, some were neglected due to lack of follow-ups.
“I challenge the leaders elected in the constituency and in Laikipia County Government to state what they have done for Laikipia East as nobody has done more than 20 per cent of what I did when I was in Parliament and in government,” said Kiunjuri.
Other projects he initiated include the expansion of electricity outside Nanyuki town and sinking of boreholes that are supporting thousands.
Deddy said he has worked for the constituency, through community representatives, that led to the construction of classrooms at Sweet Waters and Likii Secondary schools. He says presently, laboratories are under construction.
“I have constructed water tanks and among other development projects requested through public participation,” said the MP.
He added that more development projects are guaranteed if he is reelected for a second term.
Rukwaro, 46, said if elected, he would lobby for tarmacking of roads in the constituency, a role that he claimed had been neglected by former MPs over the years.
He said among his agenda would be the rehabilitation of classrooms, adding that the majority of the schools were in a horrible state.
“Since Laikipia East is the home of the military barracks, I will ensure I work closely with them and lobby for community projects like drilling of boreholes to support the youth venturing in the agriculture sector,” said Rukwaro who comes from Umande ward.
Rukwaro has a master’s degree in Project Planning and Management from the University of Nairobi.
Ndegwa, a consultant in the aviation and maritime industry, said he would prioritise the provision of electricity and water connectivity, focus on improved standards of education, and equally in bursary allocation to the leaders.
He promised to build ICT hubs and a recording studio which will accelerate youth employment and nurturing of talents.
“I will also work towards the establishment of cottage industries focusing on creating 2,500 new jobs in the constituency,” said Ndegwa who hails from Ngobit ward.
Dr Njoroge, who worked in the Cabinet of first Governor Joshua Irungu as a health executive said he has been working with the community for years.