Endless petitions: Three months into office, some governors have settled, others yet

Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza and her Nakuru counterpart Susan Kihika who are both facing challenges at the devolved units. [Standard Photo]

The election of seven women governors in the August polls was widely celebrated as a breakthrough in efforts to achieve gender parity in representation. 

The election outcome increased the number of elected women governors from three in 2017. The seven are Susan Kihika (Nakuru), Cecily Mbarire (Embu), Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay), Wavinya Ndeti (Machakos), Fatuma Achani (Kwale), Kawira Mwangaza and Kirinyaga’s Anne Waiguru who retained her seat.

Charity Ngilu, who won the Kitui governor seat in 2017, did not defend it. The late Joyce Laboso was elected the governor of Bomet in 2017.

But some of them are facing challenges slightly over three months into their tenures, including court cases challenging their election or appointment of members of their executives.

Ms Kihika is battling petitions challenging the appointment of county ministers and chief officers.

Early this month, the Employment and Labour Relations Court judge Hellen Wasilwa declared Kihika’s appointment of 10 County Executive Committee members unconstitutional following a petition by Dr Magare Gikenyi and Mr Daniel Kipng’etich.

The court ruled that the process for the appointment of the executives was skewed and did not reflect the county’s diversity and should therefore not be allowed to proceed.

Also in court was a suit challenging the appointment of chief officers by Kihika. In November, following petitions by Stephen Oduor and Kenneth Odongo, Justice David Nderitu of the Employment and Labour Relations Court in Nakuru issued orders stopping the vetting of the chief officer nominees. The nominees, at last, were vetted and approved yesterday. 

In Meru, Governor Kawira is staring at an impeachment, with the Senate set to decide her fate today. Kawira, a bishop in Baite Family Fellowship, served as area Woman Rep since 2017 before her election as governor this year, when she beat senator Mithikia Linturi (now Agriculture Cabinet Secretary), and her predecessor Kiraitu Murungi.

Political analyst Gitile Naituli said Kawira unleashed a master stroke when she picked Rev Isaac Mutuma, from Igembe, as her running mate. She also brought churches and women groups into her fold.

“She was clever. She divided the Imenti vote between her and Kiraitu, got Tigania vote as a whole, and a quarter of the Igembe votes. She knew Kiraitu was unpopular in Nyambene so she sought to exploit that. She also knew the church was supporting her whether in Nyambene or Imenti,” said Prof Naituli.

One of their own

Lucas Kobia, an advocate and a legal consultant based in Maua, said: “Kawira beat Kiraitu because people from Igembe were tired of him. They wanted one of their own. That is why all support Kiraitu had waned. So most people decided to vote for Linturi, and the rest divided between Kawira and Kiraitu”.

Kobia said Kawira had secured votes from the hustlers through her ‘Okolea’ initiatives. “She had already penetrated the interior parts of the county even before she declared she was vying for the seat,” said Kobia.

Governor Wanga on her part is fighting a petition challenging her win after former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero asked the High Court in Homa Bay to overturn her win. The court ordered a recount and scrutiny of votes in seven constituencies following a request by Kidero.

But as this was happening, Wanga scored big as 10 nominees to the county executive positions were all approved by the county assembly.

Kirinyaga’s Waiguru, who is also the Council of Governors chairperson, has embarked on her second term assignments, initiating several projects.

These projects include the Makutano Tomato Aggregation Centre which will host at least 500 traders who have been displaced by the ongoing expansion of the Kenol-Sagana-Marwa dual carriage.

In Embu, Mbarire is facing a petition by former Senator Lenny Kivuti who is challenging her victory. All her 10 nominees to executive positions were approved by the assembly and sworn into office.

[Julius Chepkwony, Phares Mutembi and Jane Mugambi]

The Standard
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