Kenya's next First Lady

From left, Justice Ann Mwaure, Ida Odinga, Rachel Ruto and Meller Lee Cheatham. [File, Standard]

One of these four will occupy State House after the August 9 General Election. Either a preacher, a former English high school teacher, a High Court judge or an American air attendant will occupy the prestigious house on the hill, depending on who becomes president.

Kenyans are familiar with the preaching and miracles performed by Mrs Rachael Ruto, her intercessory prayers and the church in her home.

They have certainly heard of Mrs Ida Odinga’s odyssey in public life, the humiliations she had to bear alone, jobless and ostracised because of her man’s “political sins”. But only a few can claim to know Justice Anna Mwaure of Employment and Labour Relations Court. Even fewer people have heard of Meller Lee Cheatham, an American air attendant.

Fate has brought these ladies together and made them combatants in a political duel where one of them will be Kenya’s next First Lady. This will happen after the General Election slotted for August 9, which will see either Deputy President Dr William Ruto, ODM leader Mr Raila Odinga, law professor Mr George Wajackoyah, or lawyer Mr Waihiga Mwaure, sworn as Kenya’s fifth president.

The office of the First Lady is a coveted position that plays a supportive role in the presidency and promotes national goals and values.

The office was defined by Mama Ngina Kenyatta and reinforced by the late Lucy Kibaki, and current holder Mrs Margaret Kenyatta, who had different styles and activities that put them in public limelight and exuded the influence and power that husbands had. 

Mrs Kenyatta has been active in her role and pursued a number of projects, including improvement of quality of life, especially mothers and children, through the Beyond Zero Initiative, which was launched in 2013, to improve maternal and child health and reduce new HIV infections among children. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta with First Lady Margaret at the finish line during the 2020 Beyond Zero half-marathon event. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Back to the current crop of contenders. Mrs Ruto needs no introduction to this office, for she has been in public life since her husband was first elected Eldoret North MP in 1997. She has made a name through women empowerment programme JOYWO, which promotes table banking. She has also accompanied her husband in numerous public events.

During her tenure at their Karen DP’s official residence, Mrs Ruto turned one of the rooms in the Sh500 million palatial home into a church, where she, close friends and staff at the home dedicate Wednesdays for prayers and fasting.

Last month, Mrs Ruto said through her prayers, the water in their residence, which had had impurities since they dug their borehole in 2003, became clear.

“I said: This water will never be dirty again, and I sprayed the water around the borehole. On Friday, I went back to the residence, and I saw the water was looking different,” she told a group of clerics visiting their official Karen residence recently. 

During this year’s Madaraka Day celebrations, she and her husband played host at Uhuru Gardens as they welcomed President Julius Maada Bio of the Republic of Sierra Leone and his First Lady.

DP William Ruto with his wife Rachel during the 59th Madaraka Day. [File, Standard]

She was at Ruto’s side when the DP, overcome by emotions in March 2013, a day after his victory with President Uhuru Kenyatta, burst into tears. Her family had attended a church service at the Faith Evangelistic Ministries in Karen.

For Mrs Ruto, the DP’s victory will see her elevated from Karen to State House.

Mrs Odinga, on the other hand, has been through thick and thin and was at one time the family head when her husband was incarcerated because of his political activities.

The former secondary school teacher, who was thrown out of her job and her house when Mr Odinga was detained, has been a permanent feature in her husband’s political life.

When Mr Odinga was crowned the Azimio presidential candidate in a colourful event attended by over 50,000 supporters at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, she told Kenyans she had handed over her husband to Kenyans so he could be their servant.

Mrs Odinga is popularly known as the de facto patron of the women’s brigade campaigning for her husband. She wields a lot of influence in political circles.

Raila Odinga with his wife Ida after he was crowned the Azimio presidential candidate at Kasarani. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

When she turned 70 about two years ago, Mr Odinga described her as an inspiration and source of strength for their family.

“Happy Birthday to my wife Ida, a witty and charming source of guidance, inspiration and strength for our family. From the first time I saw you, my life changed immeasurably. We are grateful for your dynamic, adventurous spirit. May the Lord continue to bless your illustrious life!” Mr Odinga tweeted.

Mrs Mwaure was appointed to the Judiciary on June 3, last year to serve as a judge of the Employment and Labour Relations Court. She was a lawyer and professional mediator before then.

With her at State House, Kenya will have a professional mediator. She believes that mediation of conflicts without involvement of third parties is not only healthy but cost effective as opposed to litigation.

“I personally have helped to resolve cases that have been stuck in courts for years in a record 90 minutes. Mediation helps parties in a dispute to retain relationships, maintain their dignity and ensure privacy and confidentiality. Businesses are saved money and waste of time and loss of human labour through mediation,” wrote Mrs Mwaure in a 2018 article published by The Standard.

In the event Roots Party candidate Mr Wajackoyah triumphs, the Office of the First Lady will be occupied by Ms Meller, an American air attendant he married at Family of Faith Christian Church on February 17, 2020 in Phoenix, AZ, United States· 

On her wedding day, Meller wrote on Facebook: “This day I married my best friend and confidante!!! January 4, 2020. The Best is yet to come!!”