Kenya: women eyeing governors’ seats in Rift Valley
The previously male-dominated political scene in the Rift Valley is on the verge of a major upheaval, as more women roll up their sleeves to fight for governor seats in the region.
At least five women from the region have expressed interest in the coveted governor’s seat in next year’s elections.
They began to build a Campaign War Chest to fight it with their male opponents. Since the advent of decentralization, only a handful of women have won the seats of deputy and senator.
In the Rift Valley, only one woman was elected governor in 2017, the late Joyce Laboso for Bomet County.
However, as time is running out towards the 2022 election, more and more women have launched low-key campaigns for the main county seats, promising an epic duel with male contenders.
These include Senator Uasin Gishu, Margaret Kamar, Senator for Nakuru, Susan Kihika, Representative for Narok, Soipan Tuya, Lina Jebii Kilimo, Cabinet Administrative Secretary for Agriculture, and Mary Rotich , General Secretary of the Kericho Section of the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Teachers (Kuppet).
In Nakuru for example, the battle promises to be an epic duel between Senator Kihika who intends to run on a ticket from the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party and Governor Lee Kinyanjui.
Ms Kihika sells the UDA party in the region and hopes to gain support from Vice President William Ruto.
She is also a regular critic of Governor Kinyanjui’s administration and has made a wave of inroads in parts of the county, likely to galvanize support.
Tours include charity work, meeting with opinion makers, youth leaders and elders, as well as distributing money at village fundraisers.
Senator Kihika will fight with at least four other contenders scrambling to succeed outgoing President Kinyanjui, who will run for a second term.
“I’m definitely going to go. Across the country we had three female governors. But, after (Dr) Joyce Laboso passed away, we now have two. In 2022, I want to join the league of female governors in Kenya. My people told me to do it and I am listening to them. We need more female governors and I think I am as good as the next one and able to compete favorably with the men in Nakuru County “, Senator Kihika said in a recent interview.
Political temperatures are already rising in the cosmopolitan region considered to be part of the political stronghold of Vice President William Ruto.
With the ban on political rallies still in place, wannabes have taken to social media to be wrong and win the support of hundreds of thousands of voters in the county.
Senator Kihika (nicknamed the Iron Lady of Nakuru politics) and Governor Kinyanjui enjoy the support of constituents in the county and were elected by an overwhelming majority in the last election. Since then, the two no longer agree.
The revelations that the first Governor Kinuthia Mbugua, the current State House comptroller, could make a comeback, also sowed nervousness among the main contenders for the top seat.
Political analyst and lawyer Steve Kabita said a number of factors, including proximity to the population, individual development record and Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession policy, will determine the next governor of Nakuru County.
“Currently the favorites are Susan Kihika and incumbent Governor Kinyanjui, but it is too early. As the clock moves to 2022, we will find out,” Kabita said.
In Narok County, Representative Soipan Tuya was approved last month by her clan and family (the Tuya – a political family in the county), to run for the top seat to succeed Governor Samuel Ole Tunai.
Ms. Tuya, who is serving her second term as a female representative, will compete against five men.
Others have expressed interest in succeeding Governor Tunai are Chief Administrative Secretary for Labor Patrick ole Ntutu, Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Devolution Charles Sunkuli, MPs Gabriel Tongoyo (Narok West), Lemein Korei (Narok South ) and Nairobi businessman Andrew Ole Sunkuli.
“I have decided to fight for the highest seat. I will fight with the men until the end and I am sure I will win comfortably,” she told nation.africa.
“When I look at the women’s representative seat, it’s like milking a goat. The time has come for women to milk a cow,” she adds.
In Uasin Gishu, Senator Margaret Kamar will be in the running to succeed Governor Jackson Mandago.
Prof Kamar started as an appointed member of the East African Legislative Assembly and chaired the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Tourism.
She was elected senator in 2017 and is the vice-president of the Senate.
University professor Dr Loice Jemencho and Lina Kilimo are also preparing to succeed Elgeyo Marakwet governor Alex Tolgos, who is on his second.
Mary Rotich of Kuppet has also declared her interest in succeeding Professor Paul Chepkwony in Kericho.
And the aggressiveness with which these women prepare for the election, garnering support, may be an indication that things are set to change in the political scene in the Rift Valley, which has been dominated by men for decades.
According to Kabita, women could significantly change the political landscape in the region.
“Governors’ seats are not reserved for one particular gender. With the number of women seeking governorship reaching five in the region, men should brace themselves for an epic duel. Bomet in 2017 is something to be done by then, we should expect more female governors in the Rift Valley region, ”he said.