Burial politics is gaining momentum in Deputy President William Ruto's Rift Valley political bastion as rival groups capitalise on such gatherings to sell their manifestos ahead of the 2022 General Election.
The send-off ceremonies, which were respected among the Kalenjin community, are increasingly turning into political avenues where political foes trade accusations and counter-accusations which occasionally degenerate into near fights.
Stung by the National Security Advisory Committee (NSAC) edict aimed at lowering political temperatures in the country, most politicians have found burial ceremonies to be the best way of circumventing the Public Order Act.
According to those eyeing various elective seats in 2022, the NSAC resolution requiring political leaders intending to hold public gatherings to seek approval from the Officer Commanding Station of the area three days in advance is likely to jeopardise their agenda.
Therefore, they ride on platforms like burials that require no authorisation from security agencies.
Every week, on weekends and weekdays, leaders from the Kalenjin community have joined burial ceremonies to sell their agenda to members of the public.
For allies of DP Ruto, burials also allow them to meet eye to eye with those perceived to be rebels because they have not thrown their weight behind Dr Ruto's 2022 State House bid.
As late as today, Dr Ruto skipped the launch of BBI report in Kisii by President Uhuru Kenyatta, instead choosing to attend the burial of Peter Chomba who until his death was the Member of County Assembly for Huruma Ward, Uasin Gishu County Assembly.
The late Chomba died recently from Covid-19 complications.
For instance, Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) Secretary-General Bundotich Zedekiah Kiprop alias Buzeki, who vied for the Uasin Gishu gubernatorial position in the 2017 General Election, was forced to cut short his speech during a burial in Kesses on Friday last week after he defended the area MP, Dr Swarup Mishra's development record.
Mr Buzeki, who was heckled by rowdy youths who wanted to attack him, was rescued by Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi.
Dr Mishra has had two of his functions interrupted by rowdy youths for allegedly going against DP Ruto despite his philanthropic acts that saw him get elected as the first local legislator from the Asian community.
Dr Mishra's political woes were exacerbated after he was dropped from the powerful Health Committee to the less powerful Members Service Committee as vice-chairman.
Rowdy youths in two separate incidents two weeks ago prevented Dr Mishra from addressing a function in his constituency, demanding to know why he had become a rebel in the DP's backyard.
On September 26, at a burial ceremony in Eldoret, Soy MP Caleb Kositany, a staunch ally of DP Ruto, used the event to criticise Ainabkoi MP William Chepkut, an ally of Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, who was present. He accused him of neglecting his constituency responsibilities and getting used by Dr Ruto's opponents.
"I want to categorically tell MP Chepkut that he was elected to champion the interests of Ainabkoi and Uasin Gishu residents ... do not allow yourself to be used to betray Ruto. We should unite and work for these people, not for our greed," said Mr Kositany.
But, in a quick rejoinder, a furious Mr Chepkut told off the Soy MP, saying the occasion was not meant for political confrontations but rather to comfort the family.
He said he would not be cowed by Mr Kositany's sentiments and will champion what he believes is right for all Kenyans.
"I have powerful negotiation skills and, indeed, this has enabled me to bring home government goodies and other developments ... who are you to instruct me on how I should serve my people? If you want the Governor's seat, do not mention my name because I am not as easy as you imagine," warned the Ainabkoi MP.
Early last month, another burial ceremony in Eldoret turned into a political battlefield after Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri and his supporters engaged in a heated exchange with Mr Buzeki.
Mr Buzeki had accused a section of Kikuyu leaders led by MP Ngunjiri of being behind the widened gap between the DP and his boss Uhuru Kenyatta.
Recently, Dr Ruto used an event in Mosop in his North Rift home turf to assure leaders allied to him and residents that all was well. He told them not to panic and desist from engaging in divisive politics.
Speaking in vernacular, he told his supporters that despite the axing of his lieutenants meant to clip his 2022 State House bid, he remains unshaken and his plans remain intact.
"There are those who are holding night meetings scheming how to finish me politically but they will find that we triumphed very early in the morning," said DP Ruto.
The event, which was also attended by Cherang'any MP Joshua Kutuny, was used to bash those perceived to be rebels despite both teams receiving a warm reception.
Early campaign mood
Meanwhile, Eldoret diocese Catholic Bishop Dominic Kimengich has advised political leaders against putting the country on an early campaign mood and, instead, concentrate on development issues.
The cleric asked politicking leaders to actualise what they promised their electorate in the last elections.
"Having been hit by a pandemic that has crippled our economy, negative politics is the last thing we need at the moment. Citizens need leaders who unite and not divide them along tribal lines and political affiliations," said the Bishop.
The Bishop also said that the Catholic Church was ready to help leaders who have good intentions to restore the economy and empower members of the public.