- Mr Benjamin Langat has received support from the locals to vie for the governor’s seat
- The incumbent, Prof Paul Chepkwony is an unlikely candidate for Jubilee due to his closeness to Bomet MP Isaac Ruto, who is perceived to be fierce critic of the government
- Also in the race is former Roads minister Franklin Bett, who is favoured by a section of the locals for his development record when he served as Buret MP
Behind-the-scenes lobbying for the person to take on Kericho Governor Professor Paul Kiprono Chepkwony has gained momentum ahead of next year’s General Election.
Ainamoi Member of Parliament Benjamin Langat (URP) has featured prominently as the person to carry the Jubilee ticket for Kericho gubernatorial race. Mr Langat is a two-time MP, who currently chairs the powerful Public Finance Committee in Parliament.
Although Governor Chepkwony was elected on a URP ticket, his assumed closeness to Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, who is a fierce critic of Deputy President William Ruto, makes his nomination on a Jubilee ticket tricky.
The governor, who survived an impeachment motion from MCAs, is a major proponent of the Council of Governor’s-led ‘Pesa Mashinani’ referendum push that is opposed by the Jubilee coalition.
According to Kericho County Kanu Youth leader Kadet Maritim, the governor has unwittingly exposed his soft underbelly to the latent forces who were arraigned against him before his election.
“The word on the street here in Kericho is that URP are grooming Mr Langat for the position of governor,” Mr Maritim said.
In the event,”Benja”, as the Ainamoi MP is popularly known, joins the governor’s race, he might will fight it out with former Roads minister Frankline Bett, also eyeing the Jubilee Party ticket.
During the hotly-contested senatorial by-election in Kericho recently, thousands of the Mr Langat’s supporters who camped at the Kericho Day Secondary School demanded he stands for governor.
On the other hand, Mr Bett, a former State House Comptroller during President Moi’s era, is favoured by a section of locals who claim his development record as Buret MP was impressive.
Since decamping from Cord where he was the Director of Elections, Mr Bett has warmed his way into the hearts of Jubilee bigwigs like DP Ruto and Energy and Petroleum Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter.
Mr Keter holds sway in URP and the South Rift region. Mr Bett has since been appointed as the Chairman of the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC).
But the Ainamoi legislator is not alone in the camp opposed to the Governor Chepkwony. Nearly all the MPs from the county do not see eye-to-eye with governor and rarely have they held a joint meeting save for those convened for the President or his deputy.
MPs drawn from the county include Erick Keter (Mlimani) from Belgut, Justice Kemei (Sigowet-Soin), Leornard Sang (Panadol) from Buret, Jackson Rop (Kipkelion West) and Joseph Limo (Kipkelion East).
“Why have these MPs never held functions together, except meeting in occasions where President Uhuru Kenyatta or Deputy President is present? This is bad and should be addressed,” said Pastor Eli Sigilai, an eminent church leader and elder in the county.
Governor Chepkwony was elected on a platform of recovering large tracts of arable land which were grabbed by white colonialists over 100 years ago. The call for the return of the farms endeared him to the electorate, but pushed him away from foreign and local investors who were depended on the tracts which are largely under thousands of acres of tea bushes.
On that end, he has scarcely achieved much since the plan was still in the initial stages of trying to establish a legal team to fight for compensation and get an apology from the colonial government.
The legal team will be led by prominent lawyer Karim Khan, who represented Deputy President at his trials at the Hague-based International Criminal Court.
Kabianga University lecturer Paul Rotich said the governor has lost a lot of support due to unfulfilled promises made by his government. “Despite huge successes in the area of opening up new roads and putting up Early Childhood Education Centres (ECDE), the other sectors are not well-covered,” Mr Rotich said.
Other forces may turn against the former Moi University Professor of Chemistry which include political opponents, some dating back as far as the 2007 general elections. During that period the governor was an ardent member of the United Democratic Movement (UDM), a political outfit which was associated with the Deputy President William Samoei Ruto.
Those in the know politically claim that the impeachment motion that nearly cut short the governor’s reign was sponsored by powerful forces in the higher echelons of URP who have never accepted the governor in the politics of Kericho County.
They have been sidelining him at every opportunity and will be happy not to see his back in the political arena of the county.
Political pundits aver that Prof Chepkwony is seen as an independent-minded leader who has dutifully refused to be co-opted into corrupt cartels meant to snap away resources belonging to the common Mwananchi.
Prominent among this is the issue of land leases on the colonial-owned farms which ostensibly are supposed to be coming to an end.
A veteran Kericho politician Mr Alhaji Abdullahi Kiptanui, however, hails the leadership of the governor and pleads for his rivals to give him time to implement his development agenda.
An ally of the governor and Londiani Ward County Assembly Member Mr Jackson Kikwai said Governor Chepkwony was doing well with the rolling out of various projects all over the county.
Mr Kikwai, who is pro-Pesa Mashinani bandwagon, justifies his stand saying for development to be realised in the devolved units, money had to be channelled to the grassroots.
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