TROUBLE IN TEA LAND

Governor Sang faces tough re-election battle in Nandi

Sang and a number of rivals are close to DP William Ruto and will seek the UDP primary ticket.

In Summary

• The county is largely inhabited by the Nandi subtribe of the Kalenjin community. But it contains about 30 per cent other tribes, mainly the Luhya community, the Luos and Kisiis.

• Ruto’s influence, land matters, performance of the county government and tribal arithmetic are also  factors that will influence the election of the governor.

 

Nandi Governor Stephen Sang.
YOUNGEST COUNTY BOSS: Nandi Governor Stephen Sang.
Image: MATHEWS NDANYI

Political temperatures in Nandi county are boiling more than a year and half to the general election and the focus is the governor's seat.

The county is the political backyard of Deputy President William Ruto who plans to run for president next year.

Ruto’s influence, land matters, the performance of the current administration and tribal arithmetic among the factors that will influence the governor's race.

Governor Stephen Sang - Kenya's youngest governor when elected in 2017 at age 32 - is serving his first time and will be seeking reelection.

Unlike in the last election, he is likely to face strong opposition.

Throughout the last four years, Nandi has witnessed intense rivalry among leaders. The governor does not see eye to eye with Senator Samson Cherargei.

Sang also has not had good working relations with area MPs, as they blame him for alleged graft, poor leadership and stalled development projects.

The son of former influential Cabinet minister Henry Kosgey is among six aspirants who have already hit the ground seeking to replace Sang in 2022.

Allan Kosgey, a Nairobi-based lawyer, has been holding meetings and attending public events to strategise for the expected bruising governorship battle.

Sang is a close ally of DP Ruto, as is young Kosgey and several other hopefuls.

A number of aspirants to the governor's seat indicate they will join the United Democratic Alliance party linked to Ruto, and will be fighting for the party's primary ticket.

“I will vie for governor and my intention is to offer issue- and work- based leadership unlike the too much politicking we have been experiencing at the expense of what residents actually want," Allan  said.

Given he has 22 years experience as a lawyer and manages vast family business interests in Nandi and Nairobi, his entry into the race signals a tough battle.

His father played a major role in the country’s politics for many years under the Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki regimes and his name still resonates across Nandi as though he is still active in active politics.

Allan’s brother, Alex , is MP for Emugwen in Nandi, hence, no one can ignore the family influence.

“My father did what he could and all Kenyans know his record. It's now time for us the younger leaders to take over and play our role. We should not dwell on politics of personalities as has been the case in Nandi but rather focus on what we want to do for our people," Allan said.

He said he will focus on better management of county resources, human resources, services, unity and hands-on performance but not too much politics. He will seek the UDA ticket.

DP Ruto may decide that with so many friendly faces seeking the primary ticket, he should keep his distance and let the people decide. That's what's supposed to happen in democracies.

Another leading aspirant is finance expert Antipas Tirop, also seeking the UDA ticket. 

“I will contest because the people of Nandi want mature leadership based on experience and professionalism," Tirop said.

Others eyeing the top job are former  Governor Cleophas Lagat, former Chesumei MP Elijah Lagat and administrator Kiplimo Rugut.

Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter may also vie, according to the political grapevine. Tirop says he has the necessary expertise and focus to lead the county,

“We will talk about that race when the right time comes," Keter said.

Lagat lost to Sang in 2017 mostly due to accusations of graft in his administration. Sang, however, faces similar accusations and some officers in his administration are facing charges in court.

Sang also faces criminal charges in connection with destruction in 2019 of a tea farm at Kibware, which is associated with the Kosgey family. He led residents in uprooting bushes from what they called grabbed land. He denied the charges.

Sang's supporters say he has invested heavily in healthcare and infrastructure but some rivals accuse the administration of financial improprieties. They say there have been no successful new projects in four years.

Late last year, Sang invited journalists to tour the county and see for themselves the work his administration has been doing.

However, there have been massive claims of graft and materials theft.

Sang’s administration is praised for expanding the health sector in all six subcounties. He has also reequipped Kapsabet Referral Hospital and expanded the Nandi Subcounty Hospital.

“I think Governor Sang has done well with several projects to boost his chances of re-election," women's leader Jane Maiyo said.

Sang’s critics led by Senator Cherargei, however, insist he has a poor development record. They accuse him of arrogance and playing Lone Ranger politics, ignoring other leaders and stakeholders.

County debts run to more than Sh700 million. It uses much of its resources to pay the salaries of a bloated workforce, with little left over for development.

More than Sh400 million is spent by the county and assembly on salaries every month.

“We have a county that actually runs on Fuliza-borrowing bank over-drafts every month to service operations and that is simply because of poor leadership," one aspirant said.

Tirop says residents regret electing inexperienced leaders who cause the stagnation of devolution. He says this time around, residents will make wise and homegrown decisions on their leadership.

Ruto enjoys wide political influence but residents say he will not influence their decision.

“Those who think they will ride on their friendship with and closeness to the DP are in for a rude shock. We know the DP is going for the presidency and we support him fully but down here, we will sort out our own issues," activist Jane Tirop said.

Nani had about 350,000 registered voters in 2017 in ix subcounties, including Aldai, Tinderet, Nandi, Emugwen, Mosop and Chesumei.

Land politics will play an important role in the race.

The county has a population of more than 900,000 people and covers  705,485 acres.

It is largely inhabited by the Nandi subtribe of the Kalenjin community. About 30 per cent of the population are other tribes, mainly the Luhya, the Luo and the Kisii. 

Farming, especially tea, sugar cane and maize, are the main economic activities.

The county is home to the largest multi-national tea farms occupying more than half the land area. It is also home to thousands of squatters.

Politics has been intense around the expiration of tea firm leases. Every election year, leaders promise the land will be reverted to residents after leases expire.

Nairobi lawyer Allan Kosgey.
ALLAN KOSGEI: Nairobi lawyer Allan Kosgey.
Image: MATHEWS NDANYI
Financial expert Antipas Tirop.
FINANCE MAN: Financial expert Antipas Tirop.
Image: MATHEWS NDANYI
DRCLEOPHAS LAGAT.
LAGAT: DRCLEOPHAS LAGAT.
Image: MATHEWS NDANYI
Elijah Lagat.
ASPIRANT: Elijah Lagat.
Image: MATHEWS NDANYI
Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter.
KETER: Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter.
Image: MATHEWS NDANYI