African Press International (API)

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Kenya: Campaign for Sotik parliamentary seat hots up

Posted by African Press International on August 5, 2008

By Leo Odera Omolo

BEHIND the scene campaigns have already kicked off in earnest in Sotik constituency in Bureti to replace departed former area MP Ms. Lorna Laboso.

Many candidates are gearing up themselves for a bruising battle to succeed Lorna, a former Home Affairs Assistant Minister who went down in history as the first woman elected an MP by members of the Kipsigis community to represent a rural constituency.

Lorna Laboso, the daughter of the late Mr. Fredrick Laboso a wealthy dairy and large scale tea farmer perished in a plane crash with Road Minister Kipkalya Kones in Narok district a couple of weeks ago. She was buried at her Minaret maternal home, located in the outskirts of Sotik town.

News emerging from Sotik says that up to 12 women aspirants are expected to join the race. They include her younger sister Dr. Joyce Laboso Abonyo who is currently leading the pack with a dozen other ladies who are. expected to declare their interests soon.

Dr. Laboso Abonyo is a lecture at Egerton University who is considered as the mentor and key backer of her late elder sister during the last general elections is said to be a firebrand politician and accomplished orator in public address and this could be to her advantage over the other aspirants.

During the burial of Lorna she is credited for having electrified the crowd of mourners with a powerful speech which she gave as she eulogized her late sister. But Joyce could at the same time be disadvantaged due to her marital status.

She is married to a Mr. Abonyo, a Luo technocrat from Nyakach in Nyando district. The family has a home in Nyalenda peri-urban of Kisumu. It is considered as a stigma for a Kipsigis woman who is married outside the community to come back home and claim the political leadership.

Joyce family background could work against her especially when it is taken in to account that she is married to a Luo, a community which the Kipsigis considered as backward and referred to derogatively as Ngetic uncircumcised people whose social standing in the society id treated with contempt as children (Lagok).According to the Kipsigis tradition and culture, uncircumcised person remain a child even if he is 7o year old, because he was never initiated to manshood.

But there are other candidates whose names have been floated as potential and possible candidates. They include former Nairobi PC, Francis Sigei, a politician-cum-businessman Paul B. Mutai and Jonathan Rotich.

Sigei had supported the late Lorna Laboso ahed of the last general election after she beat him in the ODM Primaries.

Sigei was among the key campaigners for the Prime Minister Raila Amolo Odinga. It has, however, not been confirmed whether or not Sigei will contest in the ODM preliminaries or he will back another candidate.

But if he chose stand, Sigei will be a formidable candidate who is worth watching. But his detractors say Sigei is being blamed for being a man of classic society who is discredited for having very little interest to ordinary rural folks. He will have to change his campaign strategies and start socializing with ordinary wananchi.

Mutai who is popularly known as Bakamu is another man to watch in Sotik. Mutai is also expected to contest the election o the ODM ticket. He is reported to have already started oiling his campaign machine ahead of the by-election.

In the last years polls Mutai came second to Lorna Laboso during the ODM preliminaries and he is expected to reactivate his chain of networks in the area ahead of the primaries.

It has yet to be made clear whether Rotich was this first round be in the race again in the ODM primaries or stick to the UDM on whose ticket he contested in the last polls. Rotich came strong second to the late Lorna Laboso in the last general elections and had been touted to win the seat, but only lost due to the ODM euphoria that had swept the Kipsigis land like tornado.

Another prospective aspirant is Dr. Stanley Kiplangat who was also in the race last year on a KANU ticket, but performed poorly emerging in the third position overall.

The former MP for the area Antony Sotet Kimeto is another candidate who run on the ticket of the Biwott led New KANU, but performed dismally is also expected to join the race for Sotik seat, which is expected to be the most crowded.

Kimeto is reported be gearing to have another shot at the seat which he lost in 2007.

The most worrying issues included the rapidly changing political trend in the Kipsigis region following the recent campaign by the MPs from the North Rift region that the community had been given raw deal by the ODM leadership.

The MP blamed the party de facto leader Raila Odinga for having short-changed the community in that he did not bargain for the adequate number of its MPs to be appointed in the cabinet and in other senior positions within the coalition government, though the community had given the ODM the largest number of MPs in the last general election.

The region has eight parliamentary constituencies which include Chepalungu, Ainamoi, Kipkelion, Belgut, Buret, Bomet and Kanoin. All the seats went to the ODM plus one extra Kuresoi in which the former internal Security PS Zakayo K. Cheruyot won on ODM ticket bringing the total number to 9. But only three MPs were appointed to the cabinet. They were the late Kones, the late Laboso and Charles Keter who is now the only Kipsigis MP serving in the grand coalition government as an assistant Minister for Energy.

Other issues which are likely to adversely affect the ODM campaign strategies in the region is the government to appoint the members of the community to senior positions in the Civil Service and parastatals bodies. Those who were serving in key positions have since been sacked or shown the exit door for various, but unconvincing reasons, which are viewed as marginalization of the community.

And the most volatile issue is the way the PM Raila Odinga is handling the Mau Forest Complex which thousands of Kipsigis are facing eviction out of the water catchment tower.

Raila is further being accused by the Kalenjin community in general and the Kipsigis in particular of leaning towards the Mt. Kenya and GEMA group at the expense of the Kalenjin, the people who voted for him on a man-to-man in 2007.

Obviously the ODM popularity in the South Rift has evaporated and is waning very rapidly facilitating a come back to KANU and UDM. The party has lost the support of the locals considerably thereby giving for other parties which are said to be making major inroad in both Sotik and Bomet constituencies. It will be a toll order for the ODM to have an easy ride in the two constituencies comes the by elections.




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