Kanu chairman and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi has come out guns blazing, following his rival’s claims that he was an “absentee” senator and should be voted out.
Senator Moi will battle it out with Simon Kiprono Chelugui of Jubilee Party, with analysts seeing the battle as an extension of the rivalry between the junior Moi and Deputy President William Ruto.
Mr Chelugui, a former Betting Control Board director, is a close ally of the DP.
The battle is expected to be close, considering the number of votes garnered by Mr Chelugui in the just concluded Jubilee Party primary in which he emerged the winner.
Mr Chelugui garnered 85,977 votes while Saraphine Chelagat came a distant second with 14,577 votes.
Analysts see claims of absenteeism directed at Senator Moi as one of the hurdles he will have to overcome in his quest to retain the seat.
But Mr Moi has come out fighting, saying his work required him more to be in the Senate in Nairobi, pushing for funds to be disbursed to the county.
“Kazi yangu si kukaa hapa; yangu ni kukaa Nairobi kuwatetea pesa ije mashinani (my work is not to stay here at home. It is to agitate for more funds to be disbursed to the grassroots),” Mr Moi declared last week in Kabarnet when he launched his campaign.
According to the senator, he has done a lot in making sure the perennial cattle rustling and banditry in the county are a thing of the past, pointing out that he lobbied for the deployment of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) in the volatile areas to carry out a massive operation.
“Are you really aware that I was the one who lobbied for the deployment of KDF to the troubled areas? What else do you really want from me or you want me to take the gun and go fight with the bandits?” he asked.
He said the insecurity menace in the region must stop and officers deployed to carry out operation should do their work as expected.
“My opponents have taken advantage to spread propaganda that I am opposing the disarmament exercise but I want to put it clear that bandits should be arrested like yesterday, to restore law and order in the volatile areas in Baringo and Kerio Valley.”
But Mr Chelugui, while profuse in his accusations that the senator has lost touch with the plight of Baringo residents, will himself have to shrug off claims that he was prevailed upon by the DP to gun for the Senate seat despite expressing an interest in the gubernatorial race initially.
There were claims that the DP successfully convinced Mr Chelugui to stand down for the incumbent, Mr Benjamin Cheboi, and go for the senate seat to remove Mr Moi, a claim Mr Chelugui denies.
Mr Cheboi was, however, handed a resounding defeat in the Jubilee Party primaries by Mr Stanley Kiptis.
“I was not compelled by anyone to vie for the Senate, but I consulted with the leaders and elders from the region and I am the best candidate to unseat Mr Moi,” Mr Chelugui said.
It was claimed that the DP made the proposal to Mr Chelugui when he hosted a delegation from Baringo County at his Sugoi home in Uasin Gishu County in December last year.
According to Mr Chelugui, the number of votes he garnered in the nomination was ‘serious endorsement’ of his candidature.
But while rallying locals behind his bid, Mr Moi says voting him out would amount to Baringo residents “castrating their own bull”.
He criticised the DP, saying he has made more trips to Baringo than any other part of Kenya, promising numerous Jubilee projects, not because he loves the people, but because he’s after their support.
“Mark my words, once you vote me out and replace me with another candidate in August, you will never ever see Ruto step in Baringo soil … forever,” he asserted.
But Mr Chelugui dismissed the criticism as unfounded.
“The DP has not been coming to Baringo on a tour but for development. In fact, he comes to Baringo due to absenteeism of the senator,” Mr Chelugui added.
He cited the DP’s support for the Kimalel Goat Auction since it was re-launched in 2013, which he said the senator has been avoiding.
Mr Ruto and Mr Moi have been embroiled in a protracted political war for the control of the vote rich Rift Valley.
Both have declared that they will seek the presidency in 2022.