Issues and personalities to watch: Rift Valley

With over 2 million voters, Rift Valley will be a theatre of politics as the election war drumbeats rise to a crescendo. The two dominant parties, ODM-K and Narc-K, will be fighting it out to bag most of the province's vote to scoop the decisive majority.

In the North Rift region, the battle for regional supremacy between former President Daniel Moi and William Ruto, the MP for Eldoret North, will determine the outcome of the vote. All things constant, Ruto, who has a likeable character, is the man that the heavyweights would want to have in their camps for his currency in the province.

As recent events indicate, the youthful Ruto has won the hearts and souls of the young generation in the region who share the feeling that their community has been unfairly targeted by Narc.

On the other hand, Moi's support seems to be among the old guard and his Tugen sub-tribe. However, it would not be too much to expect the former president to use his immense resources to tilt the balance in his favour.

In the South Rift, the elections will be another battleground for Professor George Saitoti and William Ole Ntimama who have had a love-hate relationship since their days as ministers in Moi's cabinet. At the moment the two senior Maasai politicians are in opposing camps. Yet this situation may change if Narc-K settles on Saitoti as Kibaki's running mate in the elections. Ntimama has always supported Saitoti's ambition for the presidency.

One lesson that politicians must have learnt from the referendum is that teachers are a powerful block in the province. During the referendum, the provincial branch of KNUT, the teacher's lobby, campaigned against the draft constitution where the government was embarrassed. In most parts of the Rift Valley, especially among the pastoralists, a teacher's counsel is revered and usually reigns supreme.

Already, leading protagonists in the coming elections have been trying to entice teachers to their side. Last year, when the region's head teachers association was holding its annual meeting, Kibaki traveled all the way to Nakuru to meet them and promised them various goodies. This was seen as a way of wooing them to his side.

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