Keiyo South Constituency: Rivals promise Biwott a tough race

The race for Keiyo South seat is crowded with 19 so far intent on outing long-serving MP Nicholas Biwott. Initially, each of the 19 had said they would go it alone. But their determination to curtail Mr Biwott’s dominance of the constituency politics since 1979 has seen them unite ahead of the election.

Their agreement came only weeks after Mr Biwott lost a court battle for the control of Kanu. He had sought to wrest the chairmanship from Mr Uhuru Kenyatta. The two rivals have since held discussions in an attempt to bury their differences.

The self-proclaimed Total Man — once the most powerful Cabinet minister in the Moi administration — has never faced stiff opposition in his constituency.

High commissioner

But last Saturday, his opponents made what they called the “Chepkorio declaration” under which they proposed to unite. The meeting was led by Mr Biwott’s arch-rival, Mrs Tabitha Seii, who has quit her job as Kenya’s high commissioner to South Africa to contest the seat.

However, the group did not name the party under which they would field a candidate.

The declaration was made in the presence of another aspirant, Mr John Kibet Kamar, brother of former East African Assembly MP Margaret Kamar. Prof Kamar is Mr Biwott’s wife.

The meeting was in Mr Kamar’s stronghold - Chepkorio Division - which also has a high number of registered voters.

Other aspirants at the meeting were Nairobi businessman Micah Kigen, former National Irrigation Board managing director Barnabas Bargoria and councillor George Changwony.

Also present were Eldoret-based lawyer Sawe Kipkemoi, businessman Willy Kibet Chekieng, former Tana River Development Authority boss Moses Changwony, Ms Sally Matingoi, businesswoman Rael Limo and Mr Jackson Tanu. Mr Kigen said there were eight other hopefuls who were working with the team.

Prepare for battle

Mrs Seii said: “Divisions have been our main undoing but this time round we shall unite and support one candidate to bring liberation to our people.”

But Mr Biwott has told his opponents to prepare for a tough battle as he was ready to face any of them. He said the high number of candidates lining up against him were evidence of the democratic space Kenya enjoys.

However, his status in Kanu could be bothering the MP following the recent court decision to recognise the Kenyatta-led team as legitimate party officials.

The ruling marked the end of a legal battle which started after Mr Kenyatta and his team were alleged to have been ousted at a Kanu delegates meeting in Mombasa.

Mr Biwott has set conditions for returning to Kanu, including one requiring Kanu to de-link itself from ODM Kenya.

ODM-K is, however, considered to have wide support in Keiyo District, a factor Mr Biwott’s opponents are likely to capitalise on in their bid to oust him.

In their campaigns, they are citing increased poverty, declining academic standards and lack of proper leadership.

Mrs Seii said: “The Keiyo community has never enjoyed socio-economic and political liberation.”

The area is divided into the lower belt and the highland with more than 48,000 voters. Chepkorio and Metkei divisions have the largest number of people.

Land, infrastructure, agriculture and lack of employment opportunities are some of the key factors that will feature in the campaigns.

Political tactician

One of the advantages that Mr Biwott enjoys is that he is a political tactician known to change alliances when it suits him.

His opponents have not shown how they intend to pick their candidate but Mr Biwott is capable of infiltrating the group and scuttling its plans.

The group has vowed to hold joint rallies to popularise their idea before deciding who to support.

Mr Kamar said the era of divide and rule tactics was long gone and the Keiyo community needed participatory leadership to spur development.

Some of the aspirants are capitalising on a volatile issue of land compensation in the Kerio Valley where more than 1,000 families have been waiting for alternative land.

The families gave up their land to pave the way for flouspar mining in the 1970s but have never been compensated. Some voters are convinced that Mr Biwott is seeking his last term in Parliament and, to achieve this, they expect him to fight long and hard against his opponents.

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