The Baringo senator race has narrowed down to just three candidates as Kanu chairman Gideon Moi eyes a third term in the upper house.
The senator is up against Kenya Kwanza candidates, William Cheptumo of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and Felix Chelaite who is vying on The Service Party (TSP) ticket. Mr Cheptumo is currently the MP for Baringo North.
Gideon successfully defended the seat in 2017, garnering 116,209 votes against his closest challenger Simon Chelugui of Jubilee Party who got 70,182 votes. Kennedy Ayabei of ODM finished third with 3,439 votes.
Soon after being cleared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to defend his seat, Gideon said he wants to ensure residents of Baringo are part of the next government.
He will be defending the seat on a Kanu ticket. The party is allied to Azimio La Umoja, whose presidential candidate is ODM leader Raila Odinga. Deputy President William Ruto is the UDA presidential candidate.
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Both Cheptumo and Chelaite are banking on their support of UDA and Ruto to supplant Gideon, who has exuded confidence that he will win another term in Parliament.
“I want to warn residents of our county that they cannot afford to be in the opposition,” said the Kanu chairman who also served as Baringo Central MP between 2003 and 2007.
“You can see for yourselves the work I have done for the period I have been in parliament. We have built roads worth Sh9 billion, which is just the beginning. We stand to gain more if we will be in the next government after the August 9 elections. I will ensure no one suffers when I am here as your senator,” he added.
Gideon said top on his agenda will be addressing joblessness among the youth, improving education standards in the county, and fighting for an equitable share of the revenue while offering financial support to less-privileged students.
Gideon has intimated lobbying for the employment of youth in various government departments, some on a permanent and pensionable basis, as one of his major accomplishments.
He is also credited with pushing the government to reinstate Kenya Police Reservists in parts of Baringo South and Baringo North that have been marred by insecurity.
This year the senator, working with the county government of Baringo, raised Sh270 million that went to the bursary kitty, increasing the number of learners benefitting from the fund.
“We are happy that the bursary kitty has grown exponentially. What this means is the kitty will support more learners who would have missed out on education due to lack of school fees,” Gideon said.
“We are also paying special attention to learners from areas that have perennially been affected by insecurity. Some dropped out of school because of insecurity. We will support them to continue with their education. Plans to include in the bursary kitty college and university students are at an advanced level,” he added.
Gideon noted that his administration has been laying strategies geared toward improving the quality of education, especially in Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) and Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET).
He said he will work toward upgrading vocational training institutions so they can equip students with the necessary skills they require to participate meaningfully in economic activities.
“We want students to get skills that match the needs of the job market. That is why we are keen on quality training. I will also upgrade the current ECD classrooms so they can become ECD centres. We will do this by equipping them and providing additional facilities and teachers,” he said.
Gideon noted he will also continue giving special attention to the development of sports infrastructure in the county, even as he works with stakeholders to nurture talent.
“Among others, I would like to see the completion of Kabarnet Stadium and upgrading of Eldama Ravine Stadium. We also have plans to develop three athletics camps in the county at Sirwa, Otany, and Ossen,” said Gideon.
In matters agriculture, Gideon’s focus is on the revival of cotton farming in the Kerio Valley region. He said he will also continue with efforts to improve roads and construct new ones in partnership with stakeholders.
“Infrastructure is key because we need it for sustainable socio-economic development,” he noted.
Gideon said he has supported the roads department to open up over 1,815km of rural roads and maintain another 1,417km across the county.
Meanwhile, Cheptumo said he believes he has what it takes to be the next senator of Baringo because of his experience, having served as Baringo North MP for three terms since 2007.
The MP, an ally of DP Ruto, said he is not afraid of competing with Gideon, as “My track record speaks for itself”.
Baringo’s biggest challenge, according to Cheptumo, is insecurity. “I am hopeful this issue will soon be dealt with once and for all. We need a lasting solution to the problem of insecurity in this region,” he said.
Cheptumo said he will enhance irrigation by providing dams that will also provide water for domestic use.
“Baringo is an arid and semi-arid county. However, we have 65,000 hectares of land with the potential for farming through irrigation. With dams, I assure you Baringo will feed its people. We need those dams,” Cheptumo said.
Chelaite called on residents to vote for candidates, not based on their political parties, but on their ability to deliver services.
“Time for change has come,” said Chelaite who was initially in UDA but quit and joined TPS just before nominations, which he said he felt would likely not be fair.
“One thing I am happy about Kenya Kwanza is that it has not zoned regions the way Azimio has done. This means we all have an equal chance to compete. However, in the event that Kenya Kwanza takes the same path, then the issue must be negotiated,” said 27-year-old Chelaite.
This is the first time Chelaite will be vying for a seat. He however said he is ready to fight it out with experienced politicians.
“Many people have called me a non-starter but I don’t mind the tag especially because some of the senior politicians have not shown us what they have done. I think Cheptumo is not even suited for the current position, let alone becoming a senator. He is my MP and I can tell my area still has many schools with mud-walled classrooms. For me, accomplishments are more important than one’s experience,” Chelaite said.
“My first assignment if elected will be to turn around the fortunes of our county. Our region has been marginalised for many years. I want to bring down poverty levels. We’re lagging behind because we lack good leadership,” he added.
Chelaite noted that the county is endowed with massive minerals which, if exploited, will improve the living standards of residents.
“We have numerous resources in our county, including minerals, which remain unexploited. We will also focus on value addition. We will also create employment for residents to reduce their dependency on relief supplies. I grew up here and so I understand the challenges residents face. I know exactly what to do.”
He said nothing much has changed in Baringo after ten years of devolution. “I will not only provide oversight but I will also seek markets for our product,” Chelaite said.