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Clash over gender plan in BBI for governors, their deputies

By Antony Gitonga and Kennedy Gachuhi | November 10th 2020
Governor Kiraitu Murungi (right) with colleagues Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma), Anyang' Nyong'o (Kisumu) and Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia) address the Press during a retreat for governors in Naivasha to discuss the BBI report. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

Governors yesterday failed to agree on a proposal in a document seeking to make changes to the constitution that will require them to seek running mates of the opposite gender.

County bosses were contributing to debate on the matter at Enashipai Spa in Naivasha where they are holed up for a two-day retreat to discuss the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report.

Majority of the governors faulted the proposal, noting that there should be freedom of choice for those seeking the top seat. The BBI report proposes that governors and their deputies should not be of the same gender. The task force on the BBI recommended that the running mate of every candidate for the position of county chief be of the opposite gender.

Women governors, however, said they fully supported the proposal as it would give them a chance to learn and take office in future. Of the 47 governors, only Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga) are women. Former governor Joyce Laboso was the county boss in Bomet before her death last year.

Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi said the decision on who to elect as the running mate should lie squarely with the candidate.

Murungi admitted that the issue had been discussed in the meeting, but they had failed to reach a consensus with each giving a varying opinion.

“The decision on who should be the running mate in the race for the governor’s seat should be decided by the candidate himself and not BBI,” he said.

He revisited the issue of qualifications for Members of County Assemblies (MCAs), adding that it should be allowed to continue as it is, at diploma level.

Addressing the Press on the sidelines of the meeting, Migori Governor Okoth Obado said women should be given a chance to compete with their male colleagues. Obado noted the BBI proposal to have female candidates as the deputy governor was flawed and unconstitutional.

“Even in a mature democracy like the US, the candidates make their decision on who should be their running mate,” he said.

Obado pointed out that more issues were at play while selecting a running mate and do not entirely rely on gender.

“If a male gubernatorial candidate feels that a male candidate is drawn from a certain sub-county or carries with them some influence and qualifications that would make him win an election, his hands should not be tied,” said Obado.

He at the same time took issue with those claiming that the window of amending the BBI document was closed, warning that contentious issues should first be resolved.

Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui described the proposal to have gender at play in the governorship race as an infringement on the country’s quest to attain democracy.

“The BBI recommendation to prescribe a gender configuration for gubernatorial aspirants is retrogressive and an abuse of the democratic spirit which we stand for as a country,” said Kinyanjui.

On the issue of degrees for MCAs, Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati noted that this was not in the BBI report, adding that this could lock out many candidates.

“The biggest winner in this report is devolution and we are keen to strengthen and address the clauses that have problems,” he said.

Ngilu, however, differed with her male counterparts, noting that women should be made running mates as per the recommendations.

West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo said the Constitution was silent on the roles of deputy governor.

Download the BBI Judgement by all seven Judges - Civil Appeal No. E291 of 2021
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