By Isabella Maua
Mt. Elgon, an electoral constituency in Bungoma County was formerly the only constituency in the now defunct Mt.Elgon District established for the 1963 elections.
Situated in the Western part of Kenya, the Mountain that has one of the largest intact calderas in the world is native home to the indigenous Sabaot community one of the marginalized communities in Kenya.
This dormant volcanic mountain shared by Uganda and Kenya is also catchment area for River Suam which drains into R.Turkwel later draining into L.Turkana, River Nzoia and R. Lwakhakha which eventually flows to L.Victoria
The region serves as an important watershed while its slopes support a vast variety of altitudinal vegetation zones ranging from montane forest to high open moorland studded with among other global giant lobelia and groundsel crops including but not limited to potatoes, tea, coffee and maize.
The Sabaots who dominantly occupy the region have since time immemorial based their political alignment on either the government of the day or whoever is considered the Kalenjin kingpin of the time.
Basing on voting patterns, the following have been the Members of National Assembly since independence:
Daniel Moss (The Late)– (KANU) pioneer MP from 1963 to1979 who also formed The West Kalenjin Congress Party to support the day’s political movement making Sabaots the first Kalenjins to join KANU.
Wilberforce Arap Kisiero – (KANU) 1979 to 1992
Joseph Naibei Kimkung’ – (KANU) 1992 to 1997
John Bomet Serut (The Late) – (KANU) 2002 to 2007
Fred Chesebe Kapondi – (ODM) 2007 to 2012
John Bomet Serut (The Late) – (Independent) 2012 to 2017
Fred Chesebe Kapondi – (Jubilee) 2017 to 2022
Fred Chesebe Kapondi – (UDA) 2022
Of importance to note that is that the 2022 general elections especially the parliamentary race was a historically hotly contested one with the present MNA Kapondi having to prove his kingship in the community by narrowly being beaten by a young independent candidate from Kaptama Allan Chemayiek (aka Ndovu).
Seemingly,for once in the history of Mt. Elgon, youth seemed to have a change of mind and as much many massively voted for ‘change’ it was unfortunately not yet time for them to realize their dream yet; the status quo was shockingly reinstated!
From the 6 wards in the constituency namely: Cheptais, Chepyuk, Chesikaki, Elgon, Kapkateny and Kaptama: Kenya Kwanza’s UDA and a patch of Ford Kenya here and there raised their flag high and will be leading the region for the next 5 years.
Why does Mt. Elgon need a County?
In a random interview with The Times Newspaper, residents from the region welcomed the idea of making Mt. Elgon a County. Basically, since the idea was mentioned in parliament, any politician who in anyway appeared to back up it up instantly became the Mountain people’s darling.
The Times also had an exclusive session with a section of Kaptama Elders Forum popularly known by residents as ‘Senate’, a group of elderly elite retirees who acquired the name by coming together to play an advisory role in the community besides propagating peace, unity and harmony.
According to the elders, the Sabaot community were left out during the first devolution process and duly deserve to be considered this time round.
“After colonialism the Sabaot population was distorted and we got scattered to other areas so we are in dire need of our own county to at least consolidate our people in unity and development,” said one of the members.
The ‘Senate’ which is all tribes inclusive acknowledge that having a constituency has popularized the Sabaots.
“Masinde Muliro did not recognize the Sabaots after 1957 elections, that is why former president Moi denied us a chance to either join The Kalenjin Political Alliance or be part of the Kapkatet and Kamerin Stadium meetings since we were categorized as Bukusus and as such viewed as intruders,” disclosed the elders.
The elders’ sentiments were echoed by Colonel (Retired) Cherotwei Simotwo, a business person in Kapsokwony stating that in the first draft all constituencies were to be made counties but the fact that Mt. Elgon did not acquire the status then remains a mystery.
“It is common knowledge that Kenyan counties are ethnic based and being a tribal nation, we need to embrace our diversity by empowering the marginalized communities like the Teso and Kurias besides we the Sabaots; having our own viable counties will be crucial for development,” said Simotwo.
On the other hand, the ‘Senate’ members say that the Sabaots have grown as a community and they occupy a well demarcated geographical region making it easier for county planning designation.
“We also want to categorically state that we aren’t leaving anyone out, we want to continue being in harmony with all other tribes that will be within the county to be that will technically be from Chepkube to Suam,” stated the elders.
Benefits brought by the County
According to Kaptama elders, the long awaited Mt. Elgon County will not only be beneficial to the Sabaot community but every tribe inclusive.
“There will be improvement of current communication networks, road infrastructure as well as proximity to devolved services not forgetting creation of job opportunities to our numerous unemployed youth,” reiterated the elders.
Mt. Elgon being the proverbial land of milk and honey has a lot of either underutilized or totally unutilized resources which might see the light of day if the region passes the County test!
Mt. Elgon itself has the largest base of any free standing mountain in the world stretching 50 by 80km; an extinct volcano with one of the largest intact calderas worldwide with its slopes hosting some of the oldest and tallest Podo trees, the East African Yellowwood.
According to traders in Kapsokwony which is the present headquarters of Mt. Elgon, the county will enable localization of businesses as well as bringing forth healthy competition in the devolved government programs like tenders.
This will also bring forth enhancement of human – wildlife conflict and conservation of tourist attraction sites especially among families living near forest areas. Elgon elephants also play a big role in tourist attraction as they are famous for digging deep under the mountain range for salt creating ‘caves.’
The construction of Kenya Medical Training College in Kapsokwony will also aid in the steady growth of the region more so leading to improvement of medical services to the locals.
Even as the country awaits the verdict on addition of counties in the quest to fully realize the fruits of devolution and inclusivity, Mt.Elgon residents remain the most hopeful lot with their fingers crossed hoping this time round their prayer would be answered.