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By Kipsiele Arap Sugurut
Luocome, Kericho

Buret parliamentary seat in Buret district is the only rural electoral constituency in Kipsigis land, which has attracted the largest number of women aspirants who will battle it out with more than a dozen all male contestants.

It will be an historical event in political calendar of the Kipsigis community and the first time since the inception of the Buret constituency in 1963 for such a large number of women parliamentary hopefuls to join the race in the rural Kipsigis land.

It has been recorded that two other women have in the past contested parliamentary elections. They were Mrs. Alice Ng'ok (Sotik) and Miss Lorna Laboso, who contested the same Sotik parliamentary seat on an LDP ticket during the 2002 general elections. Otherwise, it has always been exclusively the male dominated practice in Kipsigis land.

The three iron ladies who have already declared their intentions to contest the Buret seat include, Mrs. Rachel Yegon, the wife of the retired former corporate director of the Brook Bond/Uniliver Tea Company Mr. Reuben Yegon, Mrs. Rachel Ng'eno, the wife of former MP for the area and a former cabinet Minister, the late Prof. Jonathan Ng'eno and Mrs Edna Bore, the wife of the former Nyanza P.C. the late Mr. Amos Bore.

The three ladies will join the crowded race of more than a dozen male aspirants who include the incumbent MP, Paul K. Sang (Chaman Buch) and two other high profile candidates in the name of Mr. Richard D. Cheruiyot, the former Operations Manager with the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) and the LDP nominated MP Franklin Bett, who had previously served in the powerful position of the State House Comptroller in the KANU regime under the retired President Daniel Arap Moi.

Fears, however still persist among the many aspirants that the former powerful Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President in-charge of Provincial Administration and Internal Security Zakayo K. Cheruiyot, who has yet to declare his interest in the seat, may soon join the race for Buret seat. If he does so, the situation could turn to be much complicated to the other aspirants because of the former PS's attractive track record of massive development in the area.

Other rumours making the round in Litein and its environs is that Cheruiyot is still weighing his options as to whether to contest the elections in Kuresoi constituency in Molo, Nakuru District where he has established a new home with ultra modern dairy farm, maize farm and tea farm or to vie for the seat in his native rural home Bureti.

Apart from the three ladies, Cheruiyot and Bett, Paul Sang will this time around face it off with other aspirants who include Mr. Joseph K. Chirchir, the National Chairman of the Kenya National Union of Teachers, Mr. Paul Sigei a former ICDC manager, Mr. Julius Arap Tare, a manager with the Uniliver Tea Company, Mr. Patrick Kurgat who works with the NHIF in Narok, Mr. Arap Kirui ,a local businessman, Mr. Arap Cheruiyot of the CCK, Nairobi, Mr. Joseph Ng'etich, a businessman, Mr. Kisiara Rotich, Mr. Lucas Rotich, a businessman, Mr. Leonard Kirui, a young lawyer and Mr. Kipyegon Arap Koskei.

Political pundits in Litein and its environs have predicted that more aspirants would soon join the race and that the number of contestants could increase up to 20 within the next two months.

In the past elections, Buret seat has always remained the exclusive preserve of male contestants, but one of the most controversial electoral area in the whole of Kipsigis region.

The first MP to represent Buret was none other than the now ageing Kipsigis nationalist who actively participated in the struggle for Kenya's political independence, Dr. Taaitta Arap Toweett, who won the election with an overwhelming majority of votes on a KADU ticket in June 1963. Dr. Toweett, however did not last for long. He resigned in huff in order "to seek for a fresh voters mandate." This was when the former KADU leaders led by the late Ronald Gideon Ngala, the late Masinde Mulisro and the retired President Daniel Arap Moi unilaterally decided to dissolve KADU, which was then the only official opposition party in parliament and have it merged with the then ruling KANU.

Dr. Toweett put up a spirited argument that the trio should have given their parliamentary colleagues the ample time to consult the electorate who had voted them into parliament on a KADU ticket before dissolving the party. He then quit parliament. But he was badly beaten at the polls during the by-elections that consequently followed, by the hitherto unknown primary school teacher, the late Mr. Alexander Arap Bii.

Toweett, however, recaptured the seat in the 1969 general election and successfully defended it in 1974. He served in the cabinet under the late President Jomo Kenyatta and later as the longest and perhaps the best Education Minister Kenya has ever had under President Moi.

He was pressurized by Moi to vacate the seat in favour of his (Moi's) friend, Prof. Jonathan Ng'eno in the 1983 general election against the wishes of the electorate in Buret. Ng'eno lost the seat to a retired former senior resident magistrate Mr. Timothy Arap Mibei in 1988. But recovered the seat in 1992, eventually loosing it to the populist former secondary school teacher Mr. Paul K. Sang who had coined a popular election slogan as "Chaman Buch" (love me for nothing). He beat Ng'eno together with the former long serving PS for Lands and Settlement Josiah Arap Sang. The incumbent MP Sang later successfully defended his seat in the year 2002 against a troop of other contestants.

Observers in Buret politics say Paul Sang is a hard nut to crack due to his rapport and interactions with the common men and women. And that he is a down to earth aggressive campaigner. He is said to be an easygoing politician who is very accessible to the electorate, though with a mean record of active participation in the development of economic and education infrastructure.

Nominated MP Bett is being accused for having migrated to Belgut where he has established a palatial home at Chepkolony area close to the junction of Kericho-Kisumu and Kericho-Kisii road, although he is an indiginant person whose origin and family members are still living in Buret.

Zakayo Cheruiyot, however lead the pack of aspirants with well-illustrated and clean track record of active participation in the development of schools, medical institutions and other infrastructure. He is also being credited for having been the instrumental for the creation of the new Bureti District and the established of its ultra modern district headquarters which is valued at over Kshs. 100 million within the shortest possible period of time.

Mrs. Yegon, according to sources in Litein is seriously capitalizing on the gender issues by sensitizing the women folks on their constitutional rights. She is said to have also established a number of rural SACCO's particularly for women farmers and professionals for easy accessibility of loans for small scale businesswomen in the area.

Bureti district is a stronghold of KANU. But now that KANU has merged with the ODM-K, the voters in the region are naturally expected to switch their allegiance to the ODM-K, though the incumbent MP Paul Sang has stuck with the Biwott-Moi led faction of KANU. However, it is not yet clear how the current political scenario would impact on Buret electorate now that the bulks of its electorate are clearly divided into two major political camps vehemently opposed to each other.

Information making the round is that the nearly over 40,000 Kipsigis registered voters in Kuresoi, Nakuru have been pressurizing Zakayo Cheruiyot to contest against the incumbent MP Henry Cheboi who is from the minority Tugen community whose voting strength is said t be not in excess of 7,000.

The former PS has the best track record of development in the area and he is considered as the most honest person. The same is what is happening in Buret where the electorate have been heard saying that he has done a lot for them and they wished to compensate his loss of the lucrative PS job, with parliamentary seat on account of his clean development record. Cheruiyot has yet to declare which side of the two KANU factions, he belongs to.

Buret is endowed with fertile land and good rainfall. The area produces cash crops like tea, coffee, dairy farming, maize, vegetables, bananas and other crops for domestic consumption.



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