With the death of retired president Daniel Moi who had taken control of Kalenjin politics since the 1950s, eyes are now on his favourite son, Baringo senator Gideon Moi.
But even as Gideon battles to control region politics, Kalenjin tycoons are scheming to take charge under a third force.
The family at the behest of his late father settled on Gideon as the political head with Rongai MP Raymond Moi as the head according to sources.
Insiders say Raymond did not want to generate political heat within the family by waiting for the 40 days mourning period to elapse hence the move. Raymond, the Rongai MP even went further to caution Gideon to go full blast politically and stop playing soft politics.
It is said Gideon was lucky in that if his late elder brother Jonathan Moi was alive, he would not have passed the baton to him. Jonathan and Gideon were sworn family enemies with Jonathan leaning towards the mother late Lena while Gideon was Moi favourite. In fact within the family, Gideon is known to get on well with Raymond but at war with brothers Philip and John Mark.
During the preparations to bury the retired president, Gideon wanted to be the family spokesman but was overruled by his brothers and sisters preferring Raymond. It was on these grounds, deputy president William Ruto was allowed to visit Kabarnet Gardens in Kibera to mourn with the family.
With the Moi rungu, Gideon now faces the biggest test as he is set to try wrest control of Kalenjin politics from Ruto.
It is said, during the Baringo South by-election held in August 2018 following the death of Grace Kipchoim who had been elected on a Jubilee party ticket, Gideon did not field a candidate on grounds, with Kanu leaning towards Jubilee, he was going to cause a stir. Further he did not want to annoy his friend president Uhuru Kenyatta. Jubilee was defending the seat in the by-election and won eventually after Kanu chickened out.
Kanu secretary general Nick Salat was not spared after the withdrawal when Elgeyo Marakwet senator Kipchumba Murkomen, one of the deputy president’s key allies in the region dismissed the former ruling party as “inferior and of no consequence in Kalenjin politics”.
The Jubilee candidate Charles Kamuren went on to bag the seat garnering 12,777 votes, with Cynthia Kipchilat of Maendeleo Chap Chap coming second after getting 8,968. Kamuren was Kanu candidate 2017.
Chama Cha Mashinani’s Paul Kimaru Motoloi emerged a distant third with 355 votes.
During 2017 general election, Ruto and Gideon fought to control Rift Valley politics.
Kanu managed to retain key positions in West Pokot and Baringo counties, despite Ruto’s spirited campaigns to fully control the region.
In West Pokot, Kanu won the governor’s seat bagged by John Lonyangapuo and the senate by Samuel Poghisio.
In Baringo, Gideon retained his position whereas then county assembly speaker William Kamket beat then parliamentary security committee chairman Asman Kamama in the Tiaty parliamentary race.
Further in Baringo, Jubilee was the biggest casualty after losing all county assembly seats in Tiaty subcounty to Kanu.
The winners in the wards were: Zelemoi Ameja (Churo/Amaya), Solomon Makal (Kolowa), Sam Lourien (Tirioko), Shadrack Mailuk (Tangulbei/Korossi), Nelson Lotela (Silale), Daniel Tuwit (Ribkwo/Kositei) and Maria Losile (Loiyamorok).
But Jubilee won the Baringo gubernatorial race after Stanley Kiptis managed 137,668 but Kanu bagged the woman representative seat, which was won by Gladwell Cheruiyot.
The loss of the Baringo senatorial seat to Kanu was viewed as a big blow to Ruto, whose ally Simon Kiprono Chelugui lost to Gideon.
Chelugui was later appointed Water cabinet secretary before being deployed to the Labour docket.
But Kanu’s performance in the Rift Valley in the 2017 election was a far cry from its target of 60 national assembly seats.
Prior to the polls, Salat had boasted that the party would fight it out with Ruto whose then United Republican Party controlled most of the counties in Rift Valley with a few exceptions.
In the 2013 polls, Kanu had six MPs, with West Pokot’s Lonyangapuo as the only senator while URP had 58 MPs and eight senators mostly drawn from the pastoralist communities.
But in 2017 elections Ruto carried the day in Kalenjin politics as majority of MPs, senators, governors, women representatives and MCAs won through the Jubilee Party.
But even as Gideon lost seats to Jubilee in his Baringo home turf, Ruto also found the going tough in his Uasin Gishu county. In his Turbo constituency, Janet Sitienei was elected an independent just like Ainabkoi where William Chepkut was.
In Kericho, Jubilee got five parliamentary seats courtesy of powerful and influential cabinet secretary Charles Keter. Kericho county has six parliamentary seats with Sogowet-Soin going to an independent Benard Koross.
In Bomet county, Jubilee won four out of the five parliamentary seats. Gideon Koske won Chepalungu seat on Chama Cha Mashinani of Isaac Ruto. It is only in Nandi and Elgeyo-Marakwet counties that all parliamentary seats went to Jubilee.
In Kalenjinland, Kanu has only one parliamentary seat that of Tiaty in Baringo held by Kamket, a Gideon political disciple. MCC associated with Machakos governor Alfred Mutua won Baringo Central that was held for years by late president Moi. Why voters did not vote for Kanu in Baringo Central has left may political analysts questioning. Remember, for years Moi was unopposed as area MP. It is said Baringo Central voters were bitter with Kanu and Moi family that after voting for them for years, Moi decided to abandon them and settle in Rongai in retirement and never visited the constituency.
In Samburu, Kanu won two seats defeating Jubilee in the county. Kanu bagged Samburu West via Naisula Lesuuda and Samburu East through Jackson Lentol.
In Narok county, Jubilee won three seats of Gideon Konchella (Kilgoris), Korei Ole Lemein (Narok South) and Lemanken Aramat (Narok East ). Kanu won EmuruaDikirr via Joshua Ngeno with CCM getting Narok West thanks to Gabriel Tongonyo.
In Kajiado county, Jubilee out of five parliamentary seats got four with ODM one, that of Kajiado Central via Elijah Memusi. Kanu did not get any seat in the county.
But a now energised Gideon after he was handed his late father’s leadership baton is now daring to challenge Ruto for the control of Kalenjin politics and to larger extent Kamatusa read Kalenjin, Maasai, Turkana and Samburu.
The late president’s family formally endorsed Gideon as the late president’s political heir during the funeral of their departed father.
A similar sentiment was expressed by Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli who challenged Gideon to take his enemies headon, and not to hide.
Prior to Moi’s death, there was talk that Gideon had given up in his battle with Ruto.
The senator had gone silent sparking rumours that he was of the view the 2022 presidential race would unfavourable to him.Others say Gideon went silent to concentrate on his father’s ill health.
By then, there was also a believe Ruto would get the backing of Uhuru Kenyatta who during the campaigns gave an assurance he would back his second in command.
To further complicate matters for Gideon, out of every 10 Kalenjins one speaks to, 8 of them claim they have Ruto’s telephone number, or know him, while nearly all of them say they do not know and have never interacted with the Baringo senator.
There is also perception that Gideon is surrounded by an elite cabal of power brokers and shady businessmen who block the ordinary Kalenjin from accessing the Baringo senator.
Coupled with this is Gideon’s elite upbringing, which has seen him being unable to fluently communicate in Kalenjin dialect and also has problems doing the same in Kiswahili pretentiously or not.
Still, Gideon is not charismatic and his only credit is to imitate his father’s voice, which by 2022 will of no value.
Many Kalenjins also describe him as mean and out of touch with reality while in contrast Ruto is even comfortable eating in a kiosk, and even drinking the water locals take.
Gideon, who on two occasions blocked Ruto from visiting his ailing father at his Kabarak home even as he welcomed the DP’s political rivals such as opposition leader Raila Odinga as well as other leaders like Atwoli and Peter Kenneth, is also facing another rebellion from former business associates and former political allies.
The DP camp even claims Gideon was behind Jonathan’s death as he blocked his father from taking him overseas for specialised medical treatment only to die at a Nakuru Hospital -l not even Aga Khan or Nairobi Hospital.
Jonathan, the eldest son of Moi, and who in most African cultures, would have been at the forefront of decision-making in the family, died at the little known hospital in Nakuru owned by Kesses MP Swarup Mishra.
There is talk that, were he alive, he would not have passed the leadership baton to Gideon but would have taken charge.
But the Baringo senator can pull a surprise given that he has aligned himself nationally with Uhuru and Raila where he is a firm backer of the Building Bridges Imitative.
There is talk that he is earmarked for one of the top seats once the BBI recommendations are adopted.
However, the Baringo senator is politically inexperienced if one compares him with the deputy president.
Gideon is yet to come out of his father’s shadow while Ruto who represents the sentiment of the so-called hustler nation, has established vital networks in nearly all the 47 counties.
The deputy president, to his credit, has also reduced the Kalenjin MPs rebels to inconsequential noisemakers with little impact at the grassroots.
Insiders say, a third force is likely to emerge in Kalenjin politics outside Ruto and Gideon camps.
Kelenjin MPs rebelling against Ruto are Silas Tiren, Alfred Keter and Joshua Kuttuny. They are now joining Kalenjin tycoons to form a third alliance.
They are in the same league with former ministers Franklin Bett, Henry Kosgey, Sally Koskei, former Kuresoi MP Zakayo Cheruiyot and Isaac Ruto. They are leaning towards CCM that has financing of businessmen Zedekiah Bundotich, David Langat and Joshua Chepkwony among others.
Even as the state machinery works to diminish Ruto’s fortunes in favour of Gideon, the DP is the man to watch in Rift Valley and beyond. However, the third force is bound to benefit in the fights as it happened in 2017 where independnts and other parties won seats in the area.
Political analysts say Kalenjin tycoons behind CCM must now get out to fight for recognition in region politics after the death of Moi to remain relevant 2022 and court other facesin Uhuru succession.