Bernard Rotich on his campaign trail in Chepalungu. [photo by Gilbert Kimutai, Standard]
A youthful Chepalungu aspirant is determined to ride his way to Parliament.
Bernard Rotich, 23, has drawn the attention of the electorate as he cycles to connect with them and appeal for votes, even as his competitors criss-cross the area in high-end vehicles.
When The Standard caught up with him in Nyangores Ward yesterday, Mr Rotich was optimistic he would clinch the seat come August 8.
The last-born in a family of nine is warning his rivals against underrating him because of his simple mode of campaign.
“My opponents ride around the constituency in high-end vehicles, but they should be warned. I am meeting voters my rivals will never meet yet they (voters) matter in making decisions,” he says.
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Rotich tore into his opponents, saying they were out of touch with the people.
“These self-styled politicians splashing money at every stop are missing the point. They do not listen to the people’s needs. I interact and listen to the suffering our people are going through. For these people, money is not everything and they have told me to send out that message,” Rotich adds.
His decision to campaign using a bicycle has not only endeared him to the voters but also won him sympathy from the electorate.
As Jubilee and Chama Cha Mashinani candidates lock horns in supremacy battles to dominate the political scene, Rotich says party politics is driven by selfish interests that have nothing to do with the needs of the people in the constituency.
“I wonder if Jubilee or CCM know that people in Chepalungu are struggling to feed their families, facing lack of water and jigger infestation,” he said.
With the election date drawing closer, Rotich appears to be complicating matters for candidates from the “bigger parties parties” as locals worm up to him for being accessible.
Rotich’s bicycle is fitted with a solar panel which he uses to charge his phone. He also has a power bank which also runs a small music system he has fitted onto the bicycle to attract the attention of locals as he moves around. “I listen to gospel music on my way as I traverse the constituency,” he says.
Unlike other candidates who have set up campaign offices complete with a secretariat that meets on a daily basis to analyse and strategise, Rotich is hosted by generous locals wherever he is when night falls.
“I spend my nights at the last place I hold my campaigns and it has often been homes of well-wishers. Chepalungu people are hospitable and that is one lesson I have learnt in my campaigns,” he adds.
Rotich said it was not his intention to campaign on a bike but lack of money to finance splashy campaigns like his rivals forced him to opt for this method.
Rotich, who is running as an independent candidate, says he avoided party politics because it demanded a lot of resources.
“Parties demanded up to Sh50,000 but IEBC wanted only Sh500 to clear youthful aspirants seeking parliamentary seats and I saw the opportunity and took it,” he says.
Rotich is campaigning on a youth agenda saying current leadership have abandoned the youth to languish in poverty due to unemployment.
“My leadership will give priority to youth unemployment and I will encourage entrepreneurship so that our youths can be self-employed,” he adds.
Rotich will be battling it out with Jubilee’s Paul Bii, CCM’s Gideon Koskei and two other independent candidates – Caro Ruto and Anderson Kirui.
A fierce contest pitting Bii and the CCM candidate has however overshadowed his candidature.
Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, who hails from Chepalungu constituency and once represented the area in Parliament, is fighting to assert authority and turn the constituency into a CCM bastion.
Frequent showdown has been witnessed between supporters of CCM and Jubilee as they fight for dominance in the constituency.