Sibling rivalry between parties affiliated to the National Super Alliance (Nasa) has thrown the Trans Nzoia gubernatorial contest wide open, giving fringe candidates an equal chance to clinch the seat.
This is because Ford-Kenya and Amani National Congress (ANC) have both fielded candidates for the coveted seat, creating a possibility of the two political parties dividing their support base in the August 8 General Election.
The two parties are respectively led by Mr Moses Wetang’ula and Mr Musalia Mudavadi, both top politicians in western region and Nasa co-principals.
Trans Nzoia is largely inhabited by Luhyas and Kalenjins.
Jubilee Party has fielded one candidate, Mr Maurice Kakai Bisau, who is hoping to capitalise on the Nasa internal rivalry to win the contest.
The incumbent Patrick Khaemba, the Ford-Kenya candidate, is battling with Mr Andrew Wanyonyi (ANC), a former Executive Committee member, after the two parties failed to reach an agreement to field one candidate.
In 2013, Mr Khaemba emerged the winner with 87,000 votes beating Mr Bisau and former cabinet minister Noah Wekesa, who came second and third place respectively.
The county has 341,000 registered voters with the Luhya (Bukusu) community taking a big share of close to 60 per cent of the votes.
Other communities with significant votes include the Sabaots, Nandi, Turkana, Kikuyu, Kisii, Luos and Marakwet.
Mr Khaemba is relying on his development record over the last four years for his re-election and has often pointed at the unfinished County Referral Hospital, being built at an estimated cost of Sh1 billion, as one of the projects he would like to complete if re-elected.
The hospital has however not been without controversy as its cost has been questioned and a number of top officers charged in court for abetting corruption in its construction.
Another unfinished, but key project he says he wants to complete in his second term, if he gets it, is the Kitale town main bus terminus.
The Governor blames incessant court cases targeting him and his administration for delay in completion of the projects.
“The day I was sworn in as Governor of Trans Nzoia, my administration has been in courts countless times.
“This has been pulling back initiatives geared towards improving the living standards of the residents and the general economy of the county,” he said.
Mr Bisau has however declared he will outdo the incumbent, who he accused of failing to initiate any key development projects during his term.
Mr Bisau is relying on votes from the Sabaot, Nandi, Turkana and Kikuyu, who are strongly allied to the Jubilee Party.
The Kalenjins and Kikuyus, who are the region’s second and third largest communities, respectively, after Bukusus in the region, have already endorsed Mr Bisau.
The ANC candidate said he was ready to take over power and propel the county to greater heights.
“I am confident that come August 8, the people of Trans Nzoia County will elect me as their Governor.
“With several endorsements, a pragmatic manifesto and goodwill of the many people we have visited during our campaigns, we are set to win the election,” Mr Wanyonyi said.
But Mr Bisau could benefit if the Bukusu vote is divided among the candidates from the community.
Other than Mr Khaemba and Mr Wanyonyi, the other candidate from the community is Moses Khaoya, an independent.
“If the three aspirants from the Bukusu community share the bulk of their votes, then the Jubilee candidate will emerge victorious.
“It is projected that the Sabaots, Kalenjins and Kikuyus, who are allied to Jubilee, are likely to vote for Mr Bisau because of the name of the party,” Prof Nabori Mangoli, a political analyst and a former vice-chancellor of Christian University in Uganda, said.
The other candidate in the race is Joseph Mburu of National Vision Party.
Prof Mangoli however foresees a situation where the Bukusu, and by extension the Luhya, will rally behind one of the candidates to deny Jubilee victory. The county is largely a Nasa zone.
For Mr Wanyonyi, his chances lie more in rallying the large number of independent candidates for the other seats behind his candidature.
If he manages this, he would become the biggest threat to Mr Khaemba.
Mr Wanyonyi, an accountant, believes his age makes him the best candidate.
“I am a youth and [I] will not be tribal as youths cut across the boundaries. Like the French President, I believe 60 per cent of the people will vote for me,” he said.
On his part, Mr Mburu, who once declared interest in the presidency on a People’s Economic Empowerment Party ticket in the last elections, blames the current county government for slow development where projects are initiated and never completed, while some are budgeted for and construction never even attempted.
The former civil servant said that he is better-placed to be governor as he understands the plight of the farmers in Trans Nzoia.
“I will ensure the long-suffering maize farmers get a fair deal and an incentive for them to continue growing the crucial staple food.
“I deserve the votes since I have the best vision for this county, which I cannot see in my opponents,” he said.
Under the watch of the current government, unemployment remained high, he added.
However, he amused Trans Nzoia residents when he promised to commercialise termites and ‘Makhalange’ (fried fermented maize flour).
Trans Nzoia is a cosmopolitan county with Kikuyus, Tesos, Luos, Luhyas, Turkana’s, Kisiis and Kalenjins among others.
All the five candidates are confident that they will take the gubernatorial mantle come August 8.