Trans Nzoia, the country’s bread basket, has been known for decades for producing politicians who have shaped Kenyan politics. From Masinde Muliro, George Kapten and Wamalwa Kijana, the county continues to be a hotbed of political talent.
Governor Patrick Khaemba, who was elected on the Ford Kenya ticket, was unknown before the 2013 general election. His entrance into the county politics sent veteran politician and former Cabinet minister Noah Wekesa to retirement after finishing second.
Aspirants eyeing the governor seat are former UN official Maurice Bisau (Jubilee), former county employee Festus Mukoya, Andrew Wanyonyi, both of Ford-K, former radio journalist Joshua Sang (Jubilee), businessman Moses Khaoya and Bethwel Kirior (Jubilee) and Birbiriet Secondary School principal.
Water CS Eugene Wamalwa seems to have pulled out, even before joining the reace. Despite seven aspirants relentlessly campaigning to unseat Khaemba, political analysts believe the incumbent is still the man top beat due to his development record and close working relation with all communities in the cosmopolitan county.
Moses Wepukhulu, a university lecturer based in Eldoret, believes the non-tribal approach played by the county chief is what seems to be shaping opinion.
The recent report by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission that placed the county among those that have provided equal employment opportunities to different communities, seems to have completely changed the dynamics of the race.
The Bukusu community, the majority, have even complained that Khaemba’s administration favours other communities at the expense of his own. They cite the recent recruitment of drivers, where only seven Bukusus were hired out of 27 slots.
“The governor has played a big role in uniting communities living in the county. He has considered all tribes during hiring, and the management of the county, and that is the reason he’s receiving support across the region. He, however, still faces some challenges,” he says.
In the recent past, the governor has met opinion leaders from all the 25 wards, in attempt to strengthen his political base
The 2013 elections were guided by the Mabanga Declaration, in which two communities — the Bukusu and the Sabaot — agreed to share power to promote peaceful coexistence.
The Sabaot got the Senate seat, while the Bukusu took the governor position. The Nandi landed the deputy governor slot.
However, with the entry of young politicians into the county politics, the Mabanga Declaration could be trashed. Many young aspirants have vowed to disregard the existing MoU, which set aside seats for different communities.
Another challenge that threatens the MoU is the announcement by former Cherangany MP Kipruto arap Kirwa, a Nandi, that he will vie for Senate, currently held by Henry Ndiema, a Sabaot.
Analysts say the infighting between the Kalenjins could threaten their political bargaining power, making them lose big in the August poll.
Bisau says Khaemba’s administration has failed to initiate development projects, and that he has not gotten rid of corrupt officers, who have siphoned off cash.
Conversely, Khaemba has maintained that his administration has been on the forefront in the fight against corruption, saying many officers have been charged.
Among the county officers who have been interdicted by Khaemba are John Lewis Ndombi, who was the health executive and Ken Simiyu of finance.
“My government has ensured that all corrupt officers are fired and charged. I will not allow a few people to steal from the public coffers for their own selfish interests,” he said recently in Kitale.
But analysts say Bisau’s management of his campaigns has already sent a wrong signal and potrayed him as tribal.
“If you want to win any political seat in Trans Nzoia, community representation is a must, or else you will be perceived to be tribal. This is because we have members of close to all the 42 tribes,” Wepukhulu says.
On the other hand, Kirior thinks he’s better placed to be the county boss, saying his experience as a school principal will enable him establishsystems, which he says will ensure development and smooth running of the county.
“I want to bring new ways of doing things in this county, which has a lot of potential. To bring change, we need to ensure systems work well, ” Kirior says.
However, Khaemba remains hopeful of his reelection, saying he has done a lot for Trans Nzoia, making it among the leading counties.
Speaking to the Star recently in Kitale, he said his development record will ensure his reelection because residents will give him another chance to complete the projects he has started, and put the county on the international map.
Among the projects he has initiated are the 350-bed Trans Nzoia Teaching and Referral Hospital, which is expected to be complete next month.
The modern bus park, construction of more than 400 ECD and 25 vocational training centres, disbursement of non-acidic fertilisers, water projects, street lighting, purchase of Sh500 million road equipment and disbursement of bursaries to 50,000 students from poor families are some of the initiatives that analysts say have given the governor a high rating.
The construction of the referral hospital has been opposed by legislators from the county, among them Endebess MP Robert Pukose and his Saboti counterpart David Wafula.
They claim the budget was inflated from Sh26 million to Sh185 million, allegations that have since been cleared by Ethnic and Anti-corruption Commission and the Auditor General.
“Many people have started feeling the impact of the projects Khaemba has implemented in the last four years,” John Wasike, a resident, said.
But it has not been an easy sail for Khaemba. A number of grassroots Ford Kenya party officials late last year launched soathing attacks on his administration, some even claiming the governor didi not support the party. He denied the allegations.
“I don’t understand why some people within the party are fighting to ensure that I don’t get the nomination ticket, I have done a lot both financially and morally to ensure that the party grows,” Khaemba recently said at Posta Grounds, Kitale.
Recently, elders from the larger Bukusu tribe held a press briefing in Kitale, where they blamed Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula for not doing enough to contain divisions within the party.
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