Friday, December 21, 2007

New political wave sweeps across Baringo Central

For the first time in decades, voters in Baringo Central and parts of the vast Rift Valley Province are gearing up for a competitive and democratic duel. "Ngot ko samis murian kobo kot nebo!" A political rallying call in Kalenjin, which loosely translates to: "However awful a rat smells, it is always welcome at home," was the consolation for the 40-plus years that the retired president strode the Rift Valley Province and national politics.

"Moi would endure criticism for a whole five years, secure in the knowledge that by invoking native patriotism, even his critics would give him their votes on the voting day," says ODM’s Baringo Central parliamentary candidate Sammy Mwaita. He says the prospect of finally shaking off the Kanu shadow by freely choosing leaders of their choice comes with a sense of liberation and delight.

This is the feeling on the ground as PNU’s Gideon Moi and Mwaita freely fight it out for the parliamentary seat.

Gideon hopes to ride on the goodwill of the locals and connections that his father established to win a second term in office. Mwaita, on the other hand, hopes to capitalise on the ODM wave that is sweeping across the region and country at large. Voters and the political elite have uncharacteristically warmed up to ODM presidential candidate, Raila Odinga, who was Moi’s political foe, having made a career waging a life-long political battle with Moi, who detained him without trial for eight years, six of them in solitary confinement. After his release, Raila eventually played a lead role in toppling Kanu from power in 2002.

Mwaita justifies the Kalenjin community’s support for the ODM leader: "Raila’s persona and public life epitomises assertiveness and unrelenting struggle, and easily captures the imagination of a people seeking a proven and a fearless general to lead a liberation struggle against forces that loom large in people’s minds." Since retired President Moi joined the pre-independence Legislative Council in 1955, he served continuously as the Baringo Central MP representative until he retired in 2002.

For 47 years, the Baringo Central constituents knew no other parliamentary leader.

When Moi retired in 2002 and his son, Gideon, expressed interest to succeed him, there was a prospect for an inaugural electoral fight when former Co-operative Bank executive chairman, Mr Hosea Kiplagat also expressed interest in Kanu nominations together with Ford-People’s candidate, Mr Isaiah Cherutich. City lawyer, Thomas Letangul, was also in the line, among others. However, by voting day, all the contestants had withdrawn from the race at different stages, leaving Gideon to be declared elected unopposed.

This time round, Gideon is battling the ODM wave in the region as well as protests over massive sackings of senior civil servants. Mwaita is the immediate former Commissioner of Lands and like a host of other senior civil servants from the region, he was sacked by the Kibaki administration when it came to power in 2003. "I received a letter saying my services had been terminated on account of change of government and reorganisation. I found this strange as there are no such terms of employment in the Civil Service code," he recalls.

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