By EDWIN MAKICHE
When she joined politics as Sotik MP in 2008, Dr Joyce Laboso could aptly have been described as a political greenhorn, but her quick rise to political leadership has made her one of the most influential women politicians from the Rift Valley.
The former French lecturer at Egerton university had been called from the classroom to fill the gap left by her younger sister, the late Lorna Laboso, who with the then Roads Minister, Kipkalya Kones, died in a plane crash on June 10, 2008.
Her destiny would later be reshaped when the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) insisted that Lorna’s seat and that of Kones be retained within their respective families to honour their contribution to the party’s campaign in the run-up to the 2007 General Election.
With her election as the National Assembly Deputy Speaker, Dr Laboso could be headed for even bigger things.
In an earlier interview with The County Weekly, Laboso’s mother, Mrs Sarah Laboso, said allowing her second daughter to join politics was such a tough decision to make.
“The loss of Lorna was a huge blow to us. She was the most jovial child in the family and her demise left a permanent gap,” said Mrs Sarah Laboso.
She added, “But while her death was still fresh on our minds, the ODM party came knocking, looking for a replacement. As a mother, I had resisted it, fearing I would lose her (Joyce) in the same manner.’’
The mother, who is a former civic leader, says Lorna’s demise had cast a long shadow in the family’s prospects and made them to have a negative view of politics.
But following intense lobbying by ODM and requests from friends and supporters of Lorna, she finally bowed to pressure and convinced the reluctant Joyce to heed to the people’s ‘calling’.
The mother says Lorna was interested in politics and had ousted veteran politician, Anthony Kimetto to clinch the Sotik seat while Joyce had a completely different personality — she was a focused ‘girl’ who loved academics and valued personal space.
And during the by-election, she beat 11 other contestants, garnering 23,880 votes.
Laboso’s political performance has been on an upward trend since. Described by her constituents as ‘a refined leader’ she is fast rising in the Rift Valley as the ‘iron lady’ of Kalenjin politics.
In a society where women representation, especially in politics is still an issue, Laboso’s re-election and subsequent election as Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly has made her break barriers both social and political.
No easy ride
Her work both in the constituency and in party politics has not been a smooth ride. Her marriage to Edwin Abonyo, a former manager with Finlays has been used by her rivals to discredit her.
Abonyo is a Luo and this provided an arsenal for Laboso’s rivals to describe her as more inclined to Luo Nyanza than the Kipsigis.
In fact, in the run-up to the March 4 General Election, her rivals sarcastically referred to her as ‘Cheplemindet’ (Luo lady).
Her continued stay in ODM even when other Rift Valley MPs led by the Deputy President, William Ruto had fanned the propaganda that her attachment to the Luo community had forced her to stay put in former Premier Raila Odinga-led ODM.
It was therefore a timely move, when late last year, she unceremoniously ditched ODM and threw her weight behind Ruto’s URP.
At the time, Laboso said she was heeding the advice by her constituents to join a political party of their choice. She has said that since Sotik residents were her ‘employers’ she was obliged to obey their wishes.
Political pundits say the move to ditch ODM saved her political life because she would have joined the list of Rift Valley politicians whose careers were cut short by URP euphoria.
But it is not only URP loyalty that has kept her afloat, her development record has been impressive. Construction of Sotik-Borabu highway remains a key project that has bolstered the MPs profile. The construction of Lorna Laboso memorial school, an ultra-modern girls school built under the Economic stimulus programme, is yet another.