Baringo South constituency will be the next battle ground for the Rift Valley political supremacy contest between deputy president William Ruto and Baringo senator Gideon Moi. Although the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission ( IEBC) is yet to announce the date for a by-Election-occasioned by the death of area MP Grace Kipchoim, all indications are that the two politicians are likely to flex their muscles in influencing who will be elected to replace the deceased.
Ms. Kipchoim died on April 20 after a long battle with cancer. Both Kanu and Jubilee fielded candidates for the seat in the August 8 General Election that the late Kipchoim won without even holding a single campaign rally. She was elected while undergoing treatment at a Nairobi hospital. Kanu’s Charles Kamuren who came second has already declared his intention to have a second bite of the cherry. Another politician-Amos Lempaka, who contested the seat on an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party ticket and came third- has now shifted his political allegiance to Jubilee Party.
During the burial of Kipchoim, some MPs tried to drum up support for the late MPs’ son Dr.Shadrack Kiprop as Jubilee’s candidate to replace the mother. Elgeyo Marakwet MP Kangongo Bowen told mourners that Kipchoim was a lioness and gave birth to lions and that he would mobilize other leaders to ensure one of them succeeds the mother to complete the work she had started. “A lion gives birth to a lion, we will come here, deputy president and make sure the work started by Kipchoim is completed by a young lion here-he will bring the work to completion,” said MP Bowen. Dagorreti South MP John Kiarie pleaded with the people to make history just as they did to elect Kipchoim without campaigning.
“Make history, just as you elected the mother for the second term make history by electing the son, let him join us in parliament he come help us work, don’t look outside the family,’ said MP Kiarie. But Mr. Lempaka who has declared that he will be in the race to replace Kipchoim, downplays the notion that the the political supremacy battle between the deputy president and the Baringo senator will be an agenda in the by-election.
“The issue on whether the by-election will determine who between Ruto or Moi is Rift Valley king is not something that will be decided now. The Kalenjin community are still waiting to to see who has the support of Uhuru and Raila Odinga,” he says. Political analysts say this would be more than a contest between political parties but a litmus test for both Ruto and Moi. Although they agree that 2022 succession may be one of the top agendas during the campaigns for the by-election, some feel that it may not be the right yardstick to measure –who between the two politicians is popular in the region. Harman Manyora, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi’s Department of Linguistics and Languages, says with the heated politics between the two, one would expect Baringo south constituency by-election to be a litmus test for the superiority contest. However, Mr. Manyora, is quick to add that Senator Moi has not been keen to be drawn into the ongoing political fighting.
“I will not be suprised if Gideon maintains his position – not being involved in the heated 2022 succession politics. Remember he has not even declared his interest for the seat,” says Manyora. Last weekend during Kipchoim’s burial, the senator kept off the succession politics debate even after more than 87 members of parliament allied to the deputy president attacked him over claims that he had denied Ruto access to former President Daniel Moi a few days before. When the deputy president rose to address the mourners, he choose to play a different political game by declaring himself the acting MP for the area – giving all indications that the ruling Jubilee Party is determined to retain the seat. Philip Chebunet, a political analysts and a lecturer at the University of Eldoret, says when Ruto declared himeself the acting MP for Baringo south – he was sending a message to constituents that he was with them.
“There was no other better way for the deputy president to tell the Baringo South constituents that he was with them even after losing their MP… Ruto was setting the stage for the political contest between him and Gideon,” observes Dr. Chebunet. Ruto seen as the favorite to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2022. He is fighting to consolidate his political base in Rift Valley amid fears that Senator Moi- the last born son to Moi -will also be contesting the presidency. The young Moi is yet to declare his interest for the top seat but his close allies have been giving indications that he will be on the ballot come 2022. His political activities have also been judged to mean that he would be in the race to succeed Uhuru. Recently Gideon welcomed former Prime Minister Raila Odinga at his father’s Kabarak home – a visit that triggered a wave of speculation that the Mois , the Odingas and the Kenyatta family might be plotting a major political move ahead of 2022.
Raila’s visit to Moi came a few weeks after the famous Harambee House handshake between him and President Uhuru. This activities were followed by an unannounced visit by the deputy president at Moi’s Kabarak Home where he waited for more than two hours but he could not meet the former president. A statement from the office of the former president to media said that the visit by Ruto coincided with Moi’s physiotherapy session with his doctors. At the burial in Muchongoi, Ruto listed some of the projects that the late MP was pursuing for her constituents and would want implemented as part of her legacy. The DP said he will stand in as the MP until another leaders is elected and will ensure all development projects started by Kipchoim are brought to completion.
“I am the stand-in MP for this constituency until another leaders is elected and I shall work to ensure development projects started by the late Kipchoim are completed,” said DP Ruto. But the close relationship between the Moi family and that of Kipchoim is likely to play a role in the by election. Although Kanu Secretary General Salat says it is too early to talk about the Baringo south by-election, it should be remembered that former President Moi played a major role in the education of the late Grace Kipchoim and also helped in paying her medical bill after she exhausted her medical cover.
“The Moi family is too close to the Kipchoim. They have done a lot for family and there is a lot of respect between the two families,” said source privy to the relationship. In the run up to the last general election, it was challenging for Senator Moi to go and campaign for the late Kipchoim. “If you are a keen follower of Baringo politics, Baringo south is the only constituency in the county that senator Moi did not come out openly to campaign for the Kanu candidate. That was out of respect the families of Moi and Kipchoim have for each other. This may however be different this time round,” said politician aligned to the Baringo senator and who did not wish to named so as not be seen as betraying his friendship with the Moi family. It will be interesting to witness how the two Rift Valley political giants will approach the Baringo south by-election campaigns- or they will have to wait until much later to square it out.