By Ibrahim Rashid
There is nowhere in Kenya where the new Constitution has bestowed a new charter of women leadership than the former Northern Frontier Districts (NFD) comprising Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit and Isiolo counties.
Granted, the women of this region are undoubtedly the real pride of the 2010 Constitution, but before this constitutional bounty and dawn of the Second Liberation, there were several heroines and superwomen who made their debut in the no-go zone for NFD women and made it to Parliament through party nominations.
Amina Abdalla, now chair of the Parliamentary Committee of Water and Natural Resources, went into the annals of history as the pioneer of NFD women parliamentarian and served an uninterrupted three terms through her firm grasp of political party institutionalism rather than blind loyalty and party-hopping that are the known preserve of those seeking egotistical gain.
She laid the foundation for NFD women leadership at the national level. Sofia Abdi followed her in the 10th Parliament after she was nominated by ODM in 2008 and quickly fell out of love with the party leadership.
In the last election, Sofia decided to swim against the tide for a second time and refused to go for the Women Representative seat and instead vied for the Ijara Parliamentary seat that she previously contested against the then powerful Defence Minister, and now Senator Yusuf Haji during the Kanu heydays.
She was to suffer loss again to Ahmed Ibrahim Abbass (better known as Ijara) who had equally been stretched during the long battle with Senator Haji for the same parliamentary seat. Abass sits in the Parliamentary Appointments Committee where his participation in vetting the first Kenya Cabinet Secretaries made him yet another parliamentarian not to be trifled with from NEP since the death of Narc Minister Ahmed Khalif in 2003.
Enter the new dawn of the Frontier and the by-products of the historic 2010 Constitution, were Fathia Mahbub, the Mandera County Women Representative and Shukran Hussein of Garissa County who are walking the footsteps of Abdalla and Sofia.
Mahbuba, a former banker-cum-financier and avid debater mesmerised her competitors by launching a monumental campaign. She criss-crossed clan conflict zones to seek votes from all Kenyans regardless of their clan affiliation. Many Mandera County women see her hand in the Governor’s pick and mix of professional women in the County Executive Committee and County Public Service Board. Sadly, the incessant and generations-old clan conflict in Mandera County is slowing down her passion to prove she is a real-life role model for Mandera’s young women who would sooner shake off these shackles in order to make an invaluable contribution to the Jubilee government.
Shukran Hussein, a health background professional with international working experience has also introduced new jingle to Garissa County politics by upholding “People Servant Leadership”. After winning the seat, she had the acumen to join hands with her two fiercest competitors Maryan Hussein and Shamsa Abdulkadir, who proved equal to the task, by not pursuing petitions they filed against Shukran and agreed to work together to uplift the lives of Garissa women.
The pair do political business outside the National Assembly and they are frequently sighted visiting their electorate who throng Somali social places armed with their iPads/iPhones, tweeting and face-booking with their youthful constituents in the far-flung areas while also serving those nearer them in Nairobi and the so-called Somalis in the Diaspora with equal fervour. The duo’s energy and potential is glaring testimony to a new era unfolding at the right moment in history, as well as belated blessings for the voiceless women of North Eastern Province. I witnessed Shukran assisting women from Wajir County in a restaurant in the city, even though she was forced to shuffle through voluminous documentation. She nonetheless goes out of her way to assist any needy women outside her dominion.
What astonishes is their zeal, endurance and quick indulgence for first-timers going trans-countywise in service delivery.
But what of Wajir County where the electorate are talking non-stop about the Women Representative they never had in Halima Ali China.
Serving now as CEO of Kulan Foundation, an NGO, she was the runner-up in the last general election for the Women Representative seat. China, being the youngest female candidate commanded a spirited campaign that has not been witnessed in Wajir County. Her resilience and grasp of issues sent shivers down the spines of god-fathers who were the architecta of skewed clan-based, negotiated democracy in the County that now appears to be going haywire barely four months after general election. Wajir County voters must be gnashing their teeth and soul–searching, wondering how, and why they squandered an opportunity to match or elect the likes of Shukran, Fathia or the ilk of Fatuma Dullo and Tiyah Galgallo, the latter two being from Upper Eastern.
Dullo, a nominated MP from the Jubilee Coalition, started out as a District Officer in 1984 to being an advocate of the High Court and later served as a Commissioner with Kenya National Human Rights Commission.
Galgalo, the Women Representative of Isiolo is an administrator and educationist par excellence and former IIEBC commissioner. The jury is still out as to why Halima China or Fatuma Gedi, the equivalent of Shukran, Fathia, Dullo and Galgallo are today not the choice of Wajirians. The million-dollar question is, which direction would the electorate face after maturity of the “Recall Clause”should the abyss of non-service delivery widen any further than it is already threatening to?