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Ngilu back to top job

By - | Sep 30th 2012 | 5 min read

Charity Kaluki Ngilu, 60, recently launched her presidential bid amidst pomp and colour. Critics might dismiss her, but Charity is not about to give up, as NJOKI CHEGE found out

Having been in national leadership for the past 20 years, Charity Kaluki Ngilu has had her fair share of political ups and downs. The recent wave; when she launched her presidential bid.

But why now? Why the second time round?

She begins, “Well, I recently took management and leadership studies that deepened my knowledge and understanding on leadership. The course taught me the value of setting goals and objectives”.

But this is not the first time she pulled a surprise on us. In 1992, she shocked Kenya when she captured the Kitui Central parliamentary seat on a Democratic Party ticket.

Twenty years down the line, Charity believes it is time for Kenyans to have issue-based leadership.

She says: “Politics has become business as usual. We need to have a serious paradigm shift because we cannot always expect development to trickle from top to bottom. We need to jumpstart development from the people themselves.”

Project of five issues

When she first launched her presidential bid, skeptics, critics and analysts dismissed her a ‘project’ to scuttle the Ukambani vote.

“Oh yes, I am a project. I am a project of five issues. I mean, look at my track record. I can confidently say that I played a major role in delivering the second liberation,” she says with an air of pride.

She has pegged her presidential bid on five simple, yet profound issues; food and water, health, education, wealth creation and women empowerment.

From a distance, addressing all these issues might seem like a long shot, but Charity believes they are possible to achieve.

She points out that the ailing health system can barely pay their human resource enough money to put food on their tables, let alone sustain a viable health insurance system for its citizens.

“Each Kenyan needs to pay only Sh2,850 per year. As we speak, the Ministry of Health operates with a budget of Sh80 billion, if we increase that amount to Sh120 billion, we will be able to make healthcare affordable for all Kenyans,” she says.

On education, she says her aim is to distribute resources equally to improve the quality of education and uplift the lives of millions of Kenyans.

To ensure provision of water and food, she promises that her government will build more dams and irrigation schemes.

Charity says her dream is to see food insecurity, deaths caused by waterborne diseases, and poverty become a thing of the past.

The women’s president?

The Kitui Central MP has been accused of seeking to be women’s president as opposed to Kenya’s president.

Her take on this? “I will not apologise for emphasising on women empowerment because I believe a woman is the pillar of the family,” she says.

But doesn’t she think the emphasis is a little bit on the higher side?

“My reason for singling out women is because it hurts to see women empowerment programmes accorded little money. We need to make women empowerment more meaningful,” she says.

Charity advocates for systems to be put in place to guarantee women’s access to credit and to create a friendly environment to do business.

Bringing vital amenities closer to women, particularly in rural areas, is also top on her to-do list.

“There is need to be more creative and innovative with the way we do things. We need to involve more women in key decision-making processes,” says Charity.    

She gives an example of the public sector, the biggest spender in any economy, Kenya’s included.

Rarely will you find women being awarded these projects, yet there are several women contractors, engineers, suppliers, who can do an equally good job.

Says Charity: “Why are the small jobs like supplying stationery left to women, and big ones given to men? Women are as deserving as the men when it comes to accessing large contracts in energy, water, roads, public works and agriculture. It is time to effect affirmative action.”

Impressive track record

Charity boasts of an impressive track record in her capacities as the Kitui Central legislator, former minister for Health and current minister for Water and Irrigation.

For instance, a 2010 World Bank report, indicated that between 2003 and 2009, when she was heading the Health Ministry, mortality rates went down by 50 per cent because of the interventions put in place by her team.

In her home turf in Kitui Central, she has established  remarkable projects such as two universities, Kenya Medical Training Centre, Kitui Teachers’ Training College, a Meteorological Department and Water Services Board among other landmark projects. She has also put Kitui Central on the map by establishing several bore hole projects.


Probably one of the impediments to her presidential bid will be ghosts from the past. 

“The allegations were politically instigated by people in the ministry who thought I was too effective.Why wait for three years to talk about my corruption?” she quips.

 Her defence?  “In fact, since I entered the Water ministry in 2008, the number of people with access to clean drinking water has increased from 17 million to 23.5 million,” she notes.

Her background

Charity was born on 28 January, 1952. After completing her studies at the prestigious Alliance Girls High School, she attended the Kenya Government Secretarial College for a course in secretarial duties and office management skills.


She later joined the Kenya Institute of Administration where she studied business management, rural development, and certified public secretary studies.

She has worked as the administration manager for Chase Manhattan Overseas Corporation in Nairobi, and as the managing director of Ani-Plastics Ltd.

She was first elected to parliament in 1992, and was elected the leader of the Social Democratic Party, which was then in the opposition.

She has served as a member of the parliamentary committee on health, and is a member of Parliamentarians for Global Action, a network of over 1,000 legislators from 114 parliaments around the world, who promote democracy, peace, justice and development.

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