Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga who is said to be still popular among presidential candidates in Narok County with other CORD principals Moses Wetangula and Kalonzo Musyoka.
BY KIPCHUMBA KEMEI
With just a year remaining before the 2017 General Election, the Narok gubernatorial seat has attracted a lot of interest as more aspirants spring up ready to challenge Governor Samuel Tunai.
Among those being touted as the likely challengers of Mr Tunai who is expected to be the JAP candidate owing to his close relations with the Deputy President William Ruto is the immediate former Information Communication and Technology Principal Secretary Joseph Tiampati who is expected to be the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) candidate and Patrick Ntutu, the Narok West MP who will be the Kanu flag bearer.
The populous Maasai Purko clan which has openly rebelled against Mr Tunai, accusing him of among other things of sidelining them in key appointments and decision making at the county, graft and nepotism, is yet to decide who between Mr Tiampati and Mr Ntutu-all from the clan to support.
The anti-government wave in Maasai land last year saw the electorate in Kajiado Central vote for Memusi Kanchori (ODM) during the by-election following the resignation of Joseph Nkaiserry as area MP after he was appointment Interior Cabinet Secretary.
Mr Memusi beat John Tutui (JAP) in what looked like a protest vote after a government crackdown on anti-Tunai leadership in February last year in which one person was shot dead allegedly by police and several injured.
The peaceful protest which had been outlawed by Mr Nkaiserry was led by Narok Senator Stephen ole Ntutu, MPs Moitalel Kenta (Narok North), Korei Lemein (Narok South), Patrick Ntutu (Narok West) and Johana Ngeno (Emurwa Dikir).
All of them were later arrested and later charged with orchestrating the protest. The development angered the community.
All legislators except Mr Ngeno who used the Kenya National Congress (KNC) in the last general election and who has been supporting the government are in the ruling coalition.
Apart from Mr Ngeno who has been visible in Kanu meetings, Mr Kenta and Mr Korei are expected to use ODM ticket to defend their seats.
Senator Ntutu, a son of respected Maasai senior chief the late Lerionka ole Ntutu has indicated that since his younger brother, Patrick is eying the governor’s seat; he will not be defending his position.
The senator is backing a former Devolution and later East Africa Cooperation Principal Secretary John Konchela for the senate position and Lydia Ntimama, daughter of former Heritage Minister William ole Ntimama and the immediate former Narok North MP for Women Representative.
Anti-government sentiments in both Kajiado and Narok counties are still rife although observers say unless Mr Tiampati and Mr Ntutu reach an agreement for one of them to contest; Mr Tunai is likely to recapture the governor’s seat as the huge Purko clan vote would be divided.
However, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga is still popular in Narok County an area where he garnered huge votes in the bungled 2007 presidential election and in the controversial 2013 General Election.
Narok Governor Samuel Tunai who is facing stiff competition ahead of 2017 General Election.
Kanu is making in-roads in the vast county, courtesy of Bomet governor Isaac Ruto, Baringo Senator Gideon Moi’s aggressive presence in the area.
Because of the thorny issue of land ownership, land grabbing and poor leadership that has always been put in place by the government of the day, most members of the Maasai community see the Mr Odinga as their saviour.
“If he is elected, we know that Mr Odinga will solve the land problems in this County because he has been spearheading this issue,” Mr Jackson Saika, the chairman of Maasai Professionals Association said.
Majority of the community members are unhappy with the government’s reluctance to evict more than 30, 000 families in the 46, 000 hectare Maasai Mau forest that is under the Narok County management for political expediency.
“The zeal in which the former premier exhibited between 2008 and 2012 in trying to save the entire 480, 000 hectare Mau Complex from depletion from massive invasion and thereafter rehabilitate it won him many Maasai hearts,” Mr Saika added.
He observes that the Mau Forest is Maasai’s ancestral land they have conserved over the years and have been angered by subsequent governments since the tenure of President Daniel Moi to allocate part of to squatters.
The community accuses President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto of frustrating Mr Odinga in his past efforts to save the forest from depletion and help conserve it for posterity.
“They made Mr Odinga look like the enemy of the Kipsigis who are the majority in the forest ahead of the 2013 General Election by frustrating plans to resettle or compensate the beneficiaries painting him as the enemy of the Kalenjin community,” Mr Charles Nampaso, the Narok ODM chairman said.
The orchestrated campaign made him lose the Kalenjin support in the last general election, he adds and accused Mr Tunai of being reluctant to evict the settlers in the hope that they will vote for him.
The former Mau Forest Steering Committee chairman Hassan Noor who was at one time the Rift Valley Province Commissioner says that his team sent a Sh4 billion proposal to the treasury at the time when the president was the Finance Minister to compensate 7, 800 families in the forest but the money was not released.
Conservationists who are opposed to the plans to excise 17, 000 hectares in Mau to resettle the landless say the government want to use land to win votes in the forthcoming General Election and have vowed to go to court to stop it.
The Kipsigis with strength of about 80, 000 votes is the second largest voting block after the Purko.
Mr Tunai has been campaigning for the government to lift caveats on parcels of land inside Maasai Mau forest is banking on them to assist beat his opponents.
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