Trans-Nzoia has drawn national attention in all general elections since independence in 1963 beginning with Masinde Muliro, Wafula Wabuge running through to Kijana Wamalwa to former Westlands MP Fred Gumo and now Eugene Wamalwa. Though administered within the Kalenjin-dominated Rift Valley region, the number 26 county has a history of Muliro fighting for the area to be moved to the former North Kavirondo, the current Western Kenya, from South Kavirondo that covered most of the Luoland as the political base for the Luhya community that has manifested to date. But why the glamour and clamour by the bigwigs for Trans-Nzoia at any election time? With a population of nearly 1,000,000 and 230,000 registered voters, the county referred to as the granary of Kenya, the face of Kenya and small Kenya has a mixture of interests which local and outside stakeholders want to be protected by those being elected into public positions.
Starting with the Kenyatta and Moi dynasties to the pack of IEBC’s Wafula Chebukati and Ezra Chiloba, the army officials Daudi Tonje and Lazarus Sumbeiywo, the sect of the clergy of Bishop Silas Yego, NSE boss Kiprono Kittony and Khetia Ashok of Khetia Supermarkets, Judiciary’s Grace Amadi and Fatuma Sichale, PSs Harry Kimtai and Gordon Kihalangwa, governors Sospeter Ojamong and John Lonyangapuo, MPs Richard Onyonka and Sammy Ongeri, CSs John Munyes and Eugene to a host of the hustlers and squatters led by Moses Wanjala of Kiboroa Alliance Group all these categories will require security for their interests. The county also plays host to a number of government institutions and installations including the headquarters of Kenya Seed Company, Kephis, Kalro, ADC, a state lodge and Mt Elgon National Park opening up to the new Suam border point with Uganda and the Great East African Region. The county with five constituencies – Saboti, Kwanza, Cherangany, Kiminini and Endebess – almost slipped off the national political radar with the fall of Muliro, Wabuge and Wamalwa Kijana with the representation of Saboti by the then lukewarm MP Davies Nakitare following the death of Wamalwa Kijana six months into the office as the VP, in 2003.
An attempt by Eugene to succeed his brother Kijana was thwarted after the then Mwai Kibaki’s Narc government in the subsequent by-election threw its support behind Nakitare who later proved to be a big letdown to the Saboti people who in 2007 had to once bring on board Eugene as legislator. The area was again to be thrown into yet another lull with the election of David Lazaro as Eugene’s successor in 2013 and later in 2017 by ODM’s Caleb Amisi. Earlier Kipruto Kirwa had succeeded Muliro and proved to be a bitter critic to the then Kanu government under Daniel Arap Moi. Kirwa was yet to be replaced by Joshua Kuttuny in 2007 and who lost to athlete Wesley Korir in 2013 before Kuttuny turned tables against him in 2017. The same rivals are set for a rematch in 2022. The fire was kept burning by the late MP for the larger Kwanza constituency George Kapten before it was split to create Endebess towards the 2010 promulgation of the constitution that brought in Robert Pukose as the new legislator.
This was the same time the Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa was elected as the new representative if the new electoral area that had been carved off Saboti constituency. The duo has been declared as amongst the best performers in the national assembly as they kept the candle of TransNzoia county on the national level bright. The Kiminini MP has now vowed to go a mile further by contesting the governor’s seat even as he struggles to retain his national status in the Bungoma senator Moses Wetang’ula-led Ford-Kenya party after he was stripped of the powerful deputy whip position in parliament for his association with DP William Ruto. Recently, the county was about to slip away from its old spotlight of national outlook but in a short period, some events catapulted the area to its former glory of among the areas that could change the results of the forthcoming 2022 polls. But as Trans-Nzoia residents approach the 2022 election year, the questions that are lingering in the minds of many are: Will the county maintain its former status in the national political landscape? Who are the people to do the work?
Or will the county shrink to the grassroots politics? First, was the teaming of Eugene with Raila Odinga, Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli and the COG chairman Wycliffe Oparanya to try to identify Trans-Nzoia as part of Western Kenya in respect with the BBI. Secondly, by Ruto affirming that he will be in the 2022 race as a presidential candidate despite being undermined by the so-called deep state and other government agencies, the country’s second in command will have to consider Trans-Nzoia as one of his campaign grounds because of the area being the closest neigbour to his Uasin-Gishu home county. Whichever the vehicle the DP will use to ride on to State House, a large number of his passengers will be from his Kalenjin tribe especially the minority Sabaots in the county. And thirdly, Wetang’ula regards Trans-Nzoia county as the headquarters of his FK party which produced one of the party’s two governors Patrick Khaemba in the 2017 polls. The other governor is Wycliffe Wangamati for Bungoma county. For Eugene who served in the Mwai Kibaki and now Uhuru Kenyatta regimes as a minister in various departments, he would like to maintain the status quo or even climb higher to the national radar.
After cutting ties with both the DP and Wetang’ula, Eugene now enjoying support from Raila, Atwoli, Oparanya and recently Gideon Moi would like to go further than his late brother Wamalwa. The DP on his part is aware of the task ahead of him winning Trans-Nzoia county, he will have to install the best of his point men and women to put at bay those opposed to his presidential bid. The DP has his lieutenants with their eyes on various seats with the latest entry of Richard Chesebe who within the DP’s camp has received overwhelming backing to replace Senator Mike Mbito in the 2022 polls as the choice of the Sabaot community. Chesebe says as the Jubilee party boss in the county he helped the party scoop the majority county assembly seats, the WR and two constituencies of Endebess and Cherangany in the2017 polls. At 42, the engineer says as DP Ruto’s confidant his style would be different from the current crop of leaders who have allowed pilferage of public funds adding that the county can boast of the refurbished county assembly and the governor’s offices. The DP will have to use among other his insiders Abraham Sing’oei who is gunning for the governor’s slot, Peter Chemuigut for the senate and Julius Tunduria for Cherangany.
And for Wetang’ula’s FK party, the Bungoma senator apart from fighting to defend his party from a coup by the Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi intends to clinch the Saboti and Cherangany seats which he lost by a whisker in 2017 to add to the governor’s and Kiminini constituency which FK currently holds. Whatever the decision will be made for the warring FK groups of Weta, the party will not be the same again especially after two party governors closed links with the embattled party boss leaving him with Chris and the Kwanza counterpart Ferdinand Wanyonyi. On the other hand, Weta may lose aspirants who think he has given the Kiminini MP the powers to nominate the party’s candidates for the five constituencies except for one Emily Rono who the party relies on to oust the long-serving MCA for Makutano and deputy speaker for the county assembly Stephen Njoroge. Rono who lost to Njoroge by a margin of seven votes in 2017 is believed to be the person behind FK’s push for more women candidates in the 2022 polls in the county and especially Cherangany constituency. But Chris still remains Weta’s confidant in the county and any move the MP will make is likely to go down well with him though it is bound to raise eyebrows. To date, the MP has crisscrossed Saboti with MCA David Kaboloman as his preferred running mate on whom the Sabaot community banks on in 2022.
Having been declared as the favourite from amongst about 22 running mates, the Jubilee MCA is riding high after the Sabaot elders reconciled him with the Pukose and thereafter the Endebess MP backing him to represent the community for the deputy governor’s position within Chris’ camp. Fireworks are expected in Kwanza where another Weta confidant Wanyonyi will be facing acid test from the party’s adherents including the minority leader national assembly Emmanuel Waswa, a county government employee Moses Lupao and the 2013 aspirant Jacob Nasong’o. All the entrants seem to agree that the incumbent has outlived his usefulness and that the area needs a fresh mind to up development. But the appalling dilemma remains as to whether all the Kwanza aspirants will vie for the seat on the same party ticket. The same is for Cherangany where the party is torn between Benjamin Milimo and Patrick Simiyu as well as in Saboti where Joseph Pepela is pitted against William Nangulu. Former senator and FK’s chief sponsor Henry Ole Ndiema is torn between the rivaling groups and it is just a matter of time before he makes his new stand well known.
Independent aspirants such as Rodgers Bokose and John Meng’wa are pushing for the Saboti seat with a call to the residents to mitigate on the winner who will turn around the development of the area as opposed to the past leaders who seemed to base their respective representation on tribal lineage. While Bokose is hinging base vote on his fellow teachers to push ahead is agenda on improving on the local education facilities, Meng’wa as the CCO in Gov. Khaemba’s administration is keeping his fingers crossed before he could release the final bullet. One of the independent minds is Nixon Mutuku who has set his eyes on the Senate despite being affiliated to the KANU party which is struggling to regain its image in the county once dubbed as a KANU zone. A KANU official Pius Kauka says the party will field candidates in all the electoral units including Gideon Moi for the presidency in a bid of revitalizing the party countrywide. KANU is also considering fielding one Dr. Sammy Sabila in Endebess to face off with Alwin Lisa, an ally of CS Wamalwa.