- Nov 7, 2006
The Standard Online | Dec 18 2007
Rift Valley is astir, so which way for region?
Published on December 19, 2007, 12:00 am
Rift Valley is astir, so which way for region?
By Andrew Kipkemboi
Amidst the enthusiasm to vote in the Rift Valley are forces grinding against each other. Former President Moi still has bearing in the regions politics and there is a group of emerging leaders who are full of energy.
The Kalenjin have a tale about hunting; if you lose your arrow, dont scratch your head, stand at the spot and aim in the direction of the lost one. The trick wasnt always successful, but it did work sometimes.
Most of the locals are juxtaposing this and the predicament posed by the December 27 General Election.
Amidst the enthusiasm and the anticipation to vote in the Rift Valley are forces grinding against each other. Especially the battle for Baringo Central and Keiyo South parliamentary seats, which could be seen as a microcosm reflecting the shape of things to come.
It is interesting how things have panned out since former President Moi retired five years ago. Especially with the people collectively admitting that it lost the last one and look forward to wiping away the bad memories.
That partly explains the fanatical following of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in the province. Moi has little regard for ODM.
Certain things hold sway in the political life of this vast province that stretches from the border of Ethiopia and Sudan in the North, to the Tanzanian border in the South. It is named after the Great Rift Valley.
Former President Moi addresses a rally in the Rift Valley recently.
One, former President Moi, though out of power has considerable bearing in the politics of the region. Two, there is a group of emerging leaders who are youthful, full of energy and fearless who are taking the region by storm with cries about deliverance and liberation. And there are the old politicians still holding out.
Though they lack the doggedness, guile and the experience, most of them will take the game to the old guard. Their ambition and dreams are buoyed by an electorate yearning for new leadership. And that mix of a new crop of leaders and a people yearning for change has created a stir in the region with over three million votes.
Many residents of the vast province feel that the exit of Moi exposed them to the ills of being in the opposition. A huge chunk, mostly the young, though disapprove that and they are stoking up the fire of agitation that is sweeping the province. And the leaflets depicting ODM presidential aspirant Mr Raila Odinga hanging the former President did nothing to assuage the anger that the locals have with the current administration. Throngs of youth and old men sit out in trading centres in the evening talking about politics.
Former Eldoret North MP and Pentagon member, Mr William Ruto, addresses supporters at Iten in Keiyo District during an ODM campaign rally recently.
Former Eldoret Kanu chairman, Mr Jackson Kibor, who fell foul with the former President said leaders were out of step with the people.
"The people even small children know Arap Mibey (the name the locals have given Raila) and nothing can change them," he said.
"As a university student in the 1970s we fought for people power. The people are always ahead and Rift Valley is not an exception in 2007," says former Internal Security PS, Mr Zakayo Cheruiyot who is vying for the Kuresoi seat on an ODM ticket.
The sacking of key Government officials in the wake of Kibakis victory has left a sour taste in the mouths of many and the general believe is that that was the corollary of backing Mois chosen successor Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, who is now in the Party of National Unity through which Kibaki will be contesting the presidency.
"It is not a rebellion per se, people want change. To the people of the Rift Valley nothing has moved and when PNU says kazi iendelee they feel spited," said Cheruiyot.
"And like the rest of the country in 2002, they are angered."
Most of the country in 2002 rallied behind the National Rainbow Coalition, which swept Kanu after 42 years as the ruling party.
Kibaki was then the presidential candidate.
Despite taking it in their stride, many construe Mois current dalliance with Kibaki as a betrayal so hard to take. They feel that Moi has strung them along.
"It is not in the interest of the people there is a lot more than meets the eye in that," said Mr Stephen Tuitoek from Baringo Central.
Moi had represented the constituency since independence to 2002 when his son Gideon, took over.
They claimed that theyve stood with him for so long and thought they could count on him as they plan to turn the tables on Kibaki.
"We carried his (Moi) burdens in 2002, now it is up to him to take it by himself. He left us and we have no obligation but to walk away and the people have decided," said former Eldama Ravine MP, Mr Musa Sirma.
Apparently, Moi has scotched rumours that he is warming up to Kibaki for protection and at the same time playing up a succession plot.
In the province too are leaders that the electorate feel have let them down. And they plan to hang them out to dry on December 27.
And so worn out by the unceasing lies and the aloofness of politicians, most of the communities in the province have readied themselves for the night of the long knives.
They know that they have their destiny in the voting cards. Passionate opposition to Mois direction is an article of faith to them. And many fear that by the way things are going, Moi could become the odd man out.
"People want security and a promise of a happy future for which the old generation cannot provide," said Victor Kemboi, 26, from Keiyo South represented in the Ninth Parliament by Mr Nicholas Biwott.
And like in most parts of the country, the youth machine in the Rift Valley is cranking up and it will be perilous to ignore them. Many of them have not voted before and their passions are easily excited. And it is not hard to guess which way their vote will go.
"We want change for better or for worse," said Mr Thomas Kimuge, 24.
Then there is older generation who are still attached to the old guard and who cannot let go. These represent the pockets of PNU dotting the province. Both groups are at a crossroads and a meltdown is expected.
Others like former Baringo East MP, Mr Asman Kamama (PNU) and former Kacheliba MP Mr Samuel Poghisio (ODM-Kenya) will most certainly fight off their challengers and retain the seats.
Though steady, Agriculture minister, Mr Kipruto arap Kirwa will have to sweat it out.
"I will vote for Biwott, what has he not done that was not expected of him," Arap Kendagor in his late 50s says at Emsea Junction on the Kabarnet-Iten Road.
The young men seated across the table murmur.
"At least I know him (Biwott) I cannot trust this other youngster they are talking about," he says to dismissal from the youth.
"Let us try him and see what he can offer us," cuts Mr John Barkalya, 29.
Mr Jackson Kiptanui is running against Biwott on an ODM ticket.
Economic gains realised
But what is playing out is an inter-play of perception and propaganda. People have new perceptions about leadership and leaders and propaganda is fuelling the group dislike of certain leaders. And ODMs slogan about a better life ahead and devolution is a sponge for thousands of unemployed youth across the province. It will be a back-breaking job for the other parties to turn the tide that has been building up.
Though a few people dispute that under Kibaki life is better with gains in agriculture, the mainstay of the province, many feel that a lot would have been done better nonetheless.
"We get payment for our wheat, milk and maize, but that is where the good story ends," said a farmer in Eldoret who sought anonymity.
"We have no security, there are no jobs and the roads are not any better," he said.
He said the closure of Eldoret Airport in 2003 was political and had cost them millions and so has the collapse of infrastructure.
"No new road has been built in the last five years," he says.
"The people are protesting about missed opportunities and failed dreams. They want out and propaganda is fuelling the rampant rebellion," said Mr Kipkoros Kandie, a former University of Nairobi engineering lecturer running for the Baringo North seat on a Kenda ticket.
"The year 2002 was a watershed in the country and particularly for our community people lost their jobs and for once in our history, we looked lost without a clear identity now we think we have one," Mr William Cheptumo, the ODM aspirant from Baringo North says.
"Once bitten twice shy. If Kibaki had showed some recognition for the Kalenjin and especially the Tugen, the game would have been different," says Cheptumo.
Cheptumo regrets Mois distaste for Raila and Ruto and says leaders emerge naturally in a society.
Many admit that Moi is indefatigable and could do anything and turn the game on its head.
"I want you to heed my counsel and vote for Kibaki because he knows the past, present and future," said Moi in Tinderet in October.
But former Nominated MP, Mr Franklin Bett, quotes a Kalenjin proverb, melildoi kiruk kapyook (Even the strongest among us at one point must give in)
"We respect Moi he had his time that is gone. He should give the young among us the chance also," said the former State House Comptroller.
Bett is running against Health minister, Mr Paul Sang of PNU for the Bureti parliamentary seat. He is in ODM.
"The people want change and that can only come through ODM," says Ruto. "Nothing will stop that it is an idea whose time has come."
Though Moi is trying to rally up the province to vote for PNU and specifically Kanu, many of the people feel that the Kalenjin will be none the worse for it if they vote for Raila.
Emerging political players
Mois role as an elder Statesman cannot be gainsaid though that is becoming a huge challenge with the emergence of youthful leaders like Ruto, the immediate former Eldoret North MP.
Moi takes a dim view of Ruto and is thought to take him (Ruto) as a young politician with the tendency to overplay his hands and often warns him and the people about it.
But can Moi hold the feet of the young politicians and their mammoth followers to the fire and trigger off an exodus from ODM?
The scenario parallels with one of Aesops famous fables; The Lamb and the Wolf.
Pursued by a wolf, a lamb takes refuge in a temple. When the wolf cried out to the lamb that the priest would slay him if he caught him, the lamb responded; "So be it. Id rather be sacrificed in the temple than be devoured by you."
No doubt, many read mischief in Mois about-turn because of the treatment he got after he stepped out of State House in 2002. The community shared in the humiliation and though many expected Moi to go soft on the Kibaki administration, none thought that he would endorse President Kibaki for a second term. So the tug of war is set. Between a people who want to move on and throw the caution to the wind and a former President who feels that value to the vote is when the community votes for Kibaki. To most of the people, Mois reasoning that Kibaki as President is a symbol of national unity, lacks political traction.
And that is why they are okay with whatever the shooting of the arrow in the direction of the lost one yields.
The ghastly errors of President Kibakis regime, like the ruthlessness of the first years, have fed the cauldron of disdain and fuelled the affection of Raila, the former Langata MP and ODMs torch bearer who many herald as a saviour. So in the Rift Valley, a place many expected least enthusiasm for ODM, aspirants are grinding down their opponents in other parties and exciting the masses.
It is one of the regions where the people have a fervent adoration for ODM and its ideals.
"The people like Raila for his courage and sense of confidence they feel that he can deliver," says Kibor who was kicked out of Kanu in 1996 when he touched off a storm when he asked Moi to name a successor.
Railas open rebellion and patient strategy has endeared him to the locals and Mois constant warnings about an impending Armageddon is being scoffed at.
"We have sympathy for Raila a kind of liking and when Moi asked the people to support PNU, the people had to rebel," says Kibor.
Kibor says the people feel emboldened that someone from another culture and tradition could thumb his nose at Moi and no one dares miss the boat. "Raila has been in sync with the Kalenjin after the referendum and that gave him the advantage," says Mr Moses Lessonet, the Eldama Ravine ODM aspirant.
Lessonet sees the battle in the Rift Valley as a battle between the proletariat and the well-to-do.
Out to snatch torch
Meanwhile, the youthful leaders, disciplined by poverty and enlightened by education want to snatch the torch from the old generation and retire the delusion that they are the leaders of tomorrow.
"You cannot wait a half your lifetime to lead and people still say wait " says Mr Hosea Kiplagat, the Baringo Central Safina aspirant. Biwott, once viewed as a fulcrum of Rift Valley politics, is facing a battle of his lifetime. Should he survive the onslaught, it will be by the skin of his teeth. Biwott is in Kanu, an affiliate of PNU. Biwott says his development record is his trump card.
"I have built schools, health centres, roads and helped people get clean water that is tangible development, I will do more when elected," he said.
The first MP in the Ninth Parliament and former President Mois son, Gideon, also has an array of opponents to maul down.
"I am not losing sleep over them, I will win. My development record speaks for itself" a confident Moi said.
Kiplagat, a former Moi confidant, feels that that is not the case and promises to give Moi a run for his money. The other notable contenders are former Commissioner of Lands, Mr Sammy Mwaita (ODM), Mr Enock Chepkwe (Narc) and Mr Julius Bolei (Agano). Mois Private Secretary, Mr John Lokorio is running against Cheptumo in Baringo North.
In Kabarnet town, there are giant posters of the aspirants. Just like in the rest of the Rift Valley, the people are excited. They have never seen anything like this before.
The writer is the Features Editor
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