President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto spent almost a week in the North Rift in an attempt to solidify one of its most critical vote bases after cracks emerged and which the opposition was seeking to capitalise on as it seeks to grab some votes from the region.
However, as they did so the duo was met by a simmering dissatisfaction mostly fuelled by the April Jubilee nominations that led to an outgrowth of a number of independent candidates who are now giving the party’s candidates a run for their money.
As they moved from one county to another they were faced by local divisions over who the President or the deputy should support or not especially on the governorship seats.
The visit started in Trans Nzoia County last Thursday, then Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Nandi and finally West Pokot on Tuesday. On Sunday, they interrupted the North Rift sojourn and went to Bungoma.
There were a number of gains and losses as they traversed the five counties in the North Rift.
The two Jubilee leaders left the region slightly satisfied after appearing to rejuvenate their support bases following fears that most, especially in the North Rift, were taking a back seat because of a number of unfulfilled promises.
However, in all the rallies they addressed, they were received by huge, enthusiastic crowds that seemed eager to listen to both of them.
The ruling party brigade adopted a strategy that appeared to work for them as they did not focus on major towns but went to the interior shopping centres early in the morning and wrapped up their daily rallies in key towns in the evening.
This appeared to have been planned as they did this in each of the six counties they visited. In Trans Nzoia, for instance, they started at Kobos Secondary School in the remote parts of Kwanza Constituency where they sought to promote their achievements and plans for the future. They then went to Endebess, Saboti, Cherang’ani before addressing the main rally at Kitale ASK showground.
On Saturday, it was the same thing as they visited two counties; Uasin Gishu and Elgeyo-Maraket but this time round they divided themselves into two groups, one led by the President and another by his deputy.
As the President went to Elgeyo-Marakwet, Mr Ruto was in Uasin Gishu where he crisscrossed five constituencies, Kapseret, Soy, Moiben, Kesses and finally Turbo where he joined the President in the evening who had already visited Chesongoch and Chepkorio in the neighbouring county.
From Turbo, they led a procession to Eldoret town where they addressed supporters late in the evening.
On Sunday, in Bungoma, they started at Naitiri in Tongaren constituency, then Kamukuywa and headed straight to Bungoma town where a crowd was waiting for them at Posta Grounds.
This time they held joint rallies. In Nandi, they also held joint rallies but there was no main rally as they began in the interior parts and moved to Nandi Hills and Kapsabet towns. But in West Pokot the following day, they split again but eventually met in Makutano town in Kapenguria.
The plan appeared to target maximum impact in all the places they visited as they seek a first round win in the August 8 elections.
Other than taking the rallies closer to those in the remote areas, in each occasion, they enumerated what they said their government had done to the people living there. From free maternity, free national exams, free primary to secondary education, increased number of homes connected to electricity to hundreds of tarmac roads.
This seemed a bait for more votes.
In Trans Nzoia where residents have complained of owning pieces of land without titles deeds, the President took some and promised more.
“I have brought 6000 title deeds but another 120,000 are being prepared at the Titling Centre (in Nairobi). I will make sure in under six weeks they will be ready. I ask those who have received them to take care of them so they can be useful to your families,” he told them.
In Uasin Gishu, he was also bearing gifts as he told locals, who are mostly maize farmers, that prices of fertilizers would be reduced to Sh1, 200 from Sh1, 800. He also opened a modern line for milk processing at Eldoret KCC factory. In Bungoma, where matters sugarcane is close to the hearts of the locals, the President said the government would pay cane farmers Sh300 million defaulted by Nzoia Sugar factory.
In Nandi, he launched the construction of Koitalel Samoei University saying it was in remembrance of one of the local community’s most prominent 20the century leader, Koitalel Arap Samoei.
“We won’t forget those who were here before us. They rejected colonialists who wanted to grab our land and take our rights as Africans. Now we will build a university to honour them including Koitalel Arap Samoei,” said the President.
In Elgeyo-Marakwet and West-Pokot, the residents were promised roads, more electricity connection and plans to deal with rampant insecurity.
Even as they distributed these goodies, they seemed not able to extinguish the differences between their supporters especially on the gubernatorial contests.
The differences were quite conspicuous in Elgeyo-Marakwet, West-Pokot and Uasin Gishu.
DP Ruto was the one tasked with dousing the flames but his attempts appeared to stoke them instead. It was in Elgeyo-Marakwet where he faced outright disloyalty as he attempted to push supporters to back Governor Alex Tolgos of Jubilee but the crowd pushed back in Iten town against this chanting the name of Moses Changwony, an Independent candidate who lost in the Jubilee nominations.
The DP found himself in the middle of sibling rivalry between Keiyos and Marakwets. Mr Tolgos, a Marakwet and the incumbent, won the Jubilee nominations but Keiyos, who are the majority, feel sidelined as they want their own in the top county leadership. Mr Ruto misread the crowd’s intentions and he had to surrender saying he will go back and find a solution.
In Uasin Gishu, Mr Ruto also failed to settle a bitter contest for governorship between Mr Jackson, Mandago of Jubilee and another independent candidate, Bundotich Zedekiah Kiprotich aka Buzeki. On Saturday he asked Mr Buzeki to throw in the towel and support Mr Mandago but no sooner had he spoken than the latter defiantly said he would not bow out in favour of anyone.
Although in West-Pokot, they were not openly defied, supporters of Governor Simon Kachapin (Jubilee) and his main challenger, Senator John Lonyangapuo (Kanu), fought before the President and his deputy arrived. At least two people were injured. But the crowd seemed to agree with Mr Ruto when he asked them to vote for Jubilee’s Kachapin.
In other counties, they did not meet any challenge as all Jubilee candidates were approved by their supporters.