During their visit to Sigowet/Soin Constituency in Kericho County last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto had a difficult time convincing residents to adopt a “six-piece” voting style in next month’s General Election.
A section of residents openly told the DP of their love and support for Mr Kipsengerett Koross, who is gunning for the seat as an independent candidate.
This happened at a political rally in Kipsitet area, as the Jubilee candidate and incumbent MP Justice Kemei watched.
The factors informing their political stand, they argued, were under-development and wrangling over the location of the constituency’s headquarters.
Majority of the residents in the electoral unit, whose seat is being sought by four candidates, are opposed to the move by Mr Kemei, who wanted the headquarters retained at Chepkemel in Kaplelartet Ward.
This was contrary to the desire by many of the residents who want it moved to a central place, arguing that residents of Sigowet and Soliat wards have to travel long distances to access crucial government services.
There is also a feeling that the constituency has been marginalised by previous governments.
According to outgoing Kericho County Assembly Deputy Speaker Jonathan Maritim, there is need for an inclusive leadership that champions the people’s rights.
These factors are now political fodder for Mr Kemei’s critics, who have accused him of failing to heed the voice of the majority.
He faces stiff competition from the fiery Mr Koross, former Finlay’s Tea Estate manager Wilson Soi (Independent) and Kiprotich Rogony of Chama Cha Mashinani party.
“This area was marginalised for far too long. While other districts were being developed, we were left out.
“What we need for Sigowet/Soin is a vibrant leadership that will fight for the allocation of more resources to improve the bad roads and put up much-needed health facilities, among other things,” Mr Koross said.
Dr Soi however noted that since the advent of the Constituencies Development Fund 15 years ago, the situation had improved considerably, with more dispensaries, schools and roads being constructed.
“But there is much more to be done in our constituency to improve education, agriculture, among other sectors.
“We need leadership that brings people together for the common good,” he said.
Mr Kemei has defended his development record, saying there was great improvement.
“The people affirmed my good work by voting for me to carry the Jubilee mantle during the nominations.
“I would like to tell my competitors to accept defeat and wait for another term,” Mr Kemei said.
Mr Koross, who was an influential member of Jubilee however claims that his rival won unfairly through shambolic primary.
The candidates have a difficult task explaining how they will deal with the thorny issue of the constituency headquarters, created prior to the 2013 polls, having been carved out of Belgut and Ainamoi constituencies.
The offices currently share a boundary with the administrative offices at Chepkemel in Kaplelartet ward.
The four ward reps in the constituency: Joseah Kirui (Sigowet), Jonathan Maritim (Soliat), Josphat Ruto (Soin) and Andrew Soi (Kaplelartet), have each taken a stand on the matter, making it difficult for the MP to choose the most suitable place for the sub-county headquarters.
While Mr Kirui is pushing for the headquarters to be located in Sigowet township, Mr Maritim and Mr Ruto want it at Kipsitet trading centre, with Dr Soi insisting that the offices remain where they are.
Due to this standoff, the residents took the matter to court for arbitration.
Mr Koross castigated the first-time legislator for allegedly failing to address the emotive issue for four years.
In a previous consultative meeting, led by County Commissioner Mukhtar Abdi, Mr Kemei acknowledged that the issue was highly sensitive.
He subsequently called on the County Commissioner to guide the process of choosing a suitable place to serve as the constituency headquarters.
“I am waiting for a ‘Solomonic’ decision to be made. Whatever decision you make, we will abide by it,” Mr Kemei said.
Consequently, the legislator has been operating from two offices, one in Kipsitet trading centre and another at Sigowet township, in an effort to reach his constituents in the expansive constituency.