Even without former Heritage minister William ole Ntimama to pull the strings during the General Election, the races for the key seats in Narok county are taking shape and promising to serve bruising battles.
For the Narok governor’s seat, two contestants have been rolling their sleeves to battle it out with the incumbent, Samuel Tunai.
Joseph Tiampati, who is likely to carry the Cord/Nasa ticket and Patrick Ntutu, the Narok West MP, who recently defected from Jubilee Party to the fledgling Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM), associated with Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, are the key aspirants who have declared interest in the seat.
Earlier, efforts by elders to reconcile the two to have only one face Tunai hit a snag after each refused to abandon their quest.
The two hail from the Ilpurko clan that has been against Tunai, who is from the minority Siria clan, for allegedly sidelining members of the populous Ilpurko clan from the management of county affairs.
Tiampati will be banking on his clan while Ntutu, the brother of the area Senator Stephen ole Ntutu will also be banking on the same clan, while the youth and the Kipsigis who inhabit the area bordering Kilgoris are expected to provide the swing vote.
Tunai, despite coming from the smaller clan, must be hoping the split will be to his advantage. Elders had settled for Tiampati but Ntutu decided to vie for the seat citing his affinity to voters and probably the ego that he hails from a popular family.
Tunai, the designate JP flag bearer, will be banking on the migrant communities and minority Maasai clans and his development record to retain the seat.
Many years of dominance by the Ilpurko and the fact that the migrant communities have been incorporated into the running of the county and even being given positions of responsibility, will be an advantage to him.
“The dominance by Ilpurko clan since independence saw small Maasai clans consigned to the periphery up to 2013. After Tunai was elected, other communities that had lived in fear felt set free, allowed to build and invest.
The small clans and the migrants were given key positions. They will not want to go back to the past when they were shunned,” says Kuseyo Sasai, Tunai’s Chief of Staff.
The governor, he says, was viciously fought by largely Ilpurko members who had had their way since independence when he insisted on equity in employment and distribution of resources, adding that the Kipsigis who form about 30 per cent of the county population were for the first time given a say in the management of affairs.
“Apart from being a predominant Maasai county, Narok is also home to the Kipsigis and other communities who have settled largely in farmland zones. Letting them be spectators in everything was a bad decision,” he says.
“Many people believe that since 2013, they have been allowed to do their own things such as building and buying property unhindered,” says Jackson Saika, the chairman Maasai Professionals Association.
The incumbent will be banking on his resolve to tighten revenue collection in the Masai Mara National Reserve and markets, a development that has seen revenues double for use in infrastructural projects.
“Before automation of revenue collection, millions of shillings used to end up in a few pockets. The revenue is now benefitting all,” says Kiu Maloi, a community leader in Siana area near the Mara who is also the chairman of revenue disbursement for communities bordering the park.
Tiampati, formerly a senior manager at Kenya Commercial Bank, National Social Security Fund and the treasurer of African Inland Church, says despite resources at its disposal, the county still lags behind. “We still have dilapidated roads and ill equipped health facilities.
Life expectancy is still low,” Tiampati says. He adds: “Lack of essential facilities and drugs at times causes expectant women to die before reaching health institutions because of poor roads.”
He says the county needs a manager, not a politician, to harness resources for the good of the people, adding that his administration will not tolerate corruption.
The incumbent, Tiampati claims, assumed office and spent much time in fighting independent-minded people who questioned his style of leadership.
“He has a phobia for people who freely exercise independence of mind. Coming from a minority clan also made him feel unwanted, forcing him to make divisive and unilateral decisions,” claims Tiampati.