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Battle for Kipsigis vote hots up in Bomet with rival rallies planned

The hunt for all important Kipsigis vote will on Sunday be taken a notch higher when Jubilee brigade and Governor Isaac Ruto hold parallel rallies in Bomet County.

South Rift Jubilee campaign team led by Sotik MP Joyce Laboso, who is also eyeing the gubernatorial seat, will hold a rally in Bomet Stadium seen as an effort to quell the governor’s growing influence.

And to counter Dr Laboso, the rebellious governor has planned a rally in her Sotik home turf where he is expected to open a Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) office in Ndanai.

And while the county chief has consistently accused the Jubilee coalition of neglecting the region and continually vilifying its leaders, Dr Laboso dismissed him, saying he was not an option for the South Rift.

“It is easy for people to whine and complain that the Kipsigis have been neglected,” Dr Laboso threw the first salvo in what promises to be an ugly war of words.

“But when you look at it, what option does Governor Ruto bring to the table, really? The people know that he and the rest are sensational leaders out to spoil for William Ruto,” she said.

But Emurua Dikirr MP Johana Ng’eno, a close ally of the governor, said the time had come for the community to chart its own political path.

“We have been taken for a ride for far too long. We voted as a bloc, gave Jubilee all the votes we had, and now they are harassing our leaders and we are sidelined in development,” said the MP.

Governor Ruto had a bitter fallout with the Deputy President, refused to join the Jubilee Party, formed CCM and is seen to be slowly courting the opposition in a full-blown battle of egos and supremacy in the land of the rolling hills.

On November 13, the governor hosted opposition leaders Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and ODM chairman John Mbadi in a rally where he was asked to chart a new course for the Kipsigis.

The Kipsigis, meaning “the one(s) who give birth” are predominantly in Bomet and Kericho counties with sizeable presence in neighbouring Narok and Nakuru counties.

The 2009 census put the community population at 1.9 million out of the 4.9 million Kalenjin speakers and are currently estimated at 2.2 million.

DP Ruto used his control of the Rift Valley vote to ascend to power and any shift will affect his bargaining power in 2017 and his 2022 State House bid.

“Since 2013, there have been a lot of issues where Jubilee has taken the position of Kipsigis for granted. Now we just hear lip gloss development. But now the Kipsigis want to unburden themselves and chart a different political path,” Kanu Secretary General Nick Salat said.

In Nyangores Ward and Kericho Senate by-elections early this year, Governor Ruto consistently pushed the narrative that the Kipsigis —who control about 60 per cent of the populous Kalenjin vote — had been sidelined by the DP and the Jubilee administration.

Governor Ruto won the Nyangores mini-poll but lost the Kericho Senate, but not before making the DP work extra hard and offer passionate appeal after residents forced him to apologise, accusing him of neglecting the Kipsigis and the region.

“People are angry. If Kericho and Nyangores is anything to go by, then the Kipsigis may chart its own course in 2017,” said Mr Salat.

But Dr Laboso said the Kipsigis region was fully pro-Jubilee.

“It is a case of half empty, half full glass. We have had our share in government and we will back it in 2017,” said Dr Laboso.

Bomet Senator Wilfred Lesan laughed off claims of Kipsigis rebellion, let alone one led by Governor Ruto.

“The Kipsigis are fairly political people and they know what to do. They will not move out of government. They do not break their promises (To support Jubilee),” Prof Lesan said.

©Alleastafrica and Daily Nation

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