Win for gender parity quest as more women get elective posts

It was steady progress from the 2017 and 2013 elections. In the 2013 elections which were first under the 2010 Constitution, no female governor made the cut.

In 2017, politician Charity Ngilu won the Kitui governor race alongside former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru in Kirinyaga and former Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso in Bomet.

Ms Laboso died in office while Ms Ngilu opted not to defend her seat in the August 9 General Election. Ms Waiguru successfully defended her seat in an election that saw six female governors elected - Susan Kihika (Nakuru), Kawira Mwangaza (Meru), Fatuma Achani (Kwale), Gladys Wanga (Homabay), Wavinya Ndeti (Machakos) and Cecily Mbarire (Embu).

However, there are huge regional disparities in the election trend. Mt Kenya which has 10 counties now has four female governors while Northern Kenya from Garissa to Turkana - which also has 10 counties has no female governor, same as Western.

The Coast with its significant Muslim population managed to elect a pioneer female governor same as Nyanza and Rift Valley while Ukambani retained it's previous record of one female governor with election of Ndeti in Machakos.

In Nakuru county, Kihika who was then senator defeated the incumbent Lee Kinyanjui with a huge margin, while Keroche Breweries CEO Tabitha Karanja was elected senator.

Nakuru county set a precedent by electing all female top leadership. The female leaders are Kihika (Governor), Karanja (Senator), Liza Chelule (Woman Rep), Charity Kathambi (Njoro MP), Martha Wangari (Gilgil MP), Irene Njoki (Bahati MP), Grace Mwathi (Bahati MCA) and Jayne Kihara (Naivasha MP).

Only six men managed to emerge victorious in Nakuru's elections - MPs Samuel Arama (Nakuru West), David Gikaria (Nakuru East), Samuel Gachobe (Subukia), Kuria Kimani (Molo), Alfred Mutai (Kuresoi North) and Joseph Tonui (Kuresoi South).

Nakuru broke the record previously held by Murang'a in 2017 which had four women and four men in its eight-member parliamentary group while Homa Bay had four out of 10 MPs including the Woman Rep.

Linet Chepkorir 'Toto' made history by becoming the youngest female MP at 24 years, after winning the Bomet Woman Rep seat. Her counterpart in Kirinyaga county is 28-year-old Betty Maina, a lawyer.

Maraga bombshell

The Kenya Kwanza government has committed to enact the gender rule to avoid the crisis experienced by the previous regime after former Chief Justice David Maraga advised former President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve Parliament for failure to enact legislation on the two-thirds gender rule.

President Ruto has written to Parliament saying solving this conundrum is among the objectives for constitutional changes which he wishes to execute through the parliamentary route.

The formula he suggests to enact the gender rule is the one used in the county assemblies where a minimum number of members is nominated to fill the deficit for the gender affected by less representation.

In other words, the government is seeking to use the proportion of parliamentary representation by parties to nominate the gender top-up representatives. Whether the government will achieve its target for constitutional reform through the parliamentary route for gender top up will only become clear in the next year.

Nevertheless, the women leaders elected to steer the devolved governments in the year will remain a high for it's diversity and surprises.

There is Ms Achani, the former deputy governor to two term Governor Salim Mvurya. Her election was significant for being the only deputy governor who succeeded her boss.

Seasoned politicians

Former Meru Woman Rep Mwangaza who vied as an independent candidate beat seasoned male competitors in the tight governor race. The governor who is ending the year on a dead heat war of nerves with MCAs defeated the longest serving Mt Kenya elected politician Kiraitu Murungi - and third term legislator Mithika Linturi who vied on United Democratic Alliance (UDA).

There was also the Ruto Cabinet appointments which comprised more women compared to the previous regimes. However, the president has been criticised for failing to uphold the promise to appoint 50 per cent women in Cabinet.

Critics have pointed at Article 152(a) which clearly defines Cabinet as comprising of the president, the deputy president, not less than 14 and not more than 22 Cabinet Secretaries and the Attorney General. The upper ceiling is 25 members and the lower threshold 14.

Besides himself and Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, the president added two more Cabinet level appointments his list of 22 Cabinet Secretaries, naming former Energy CS Monicah Juma as Adviser on National Security and lawyer Harriet Chiggai as Advisor on Legal and Gender. Mercy Wanjau is the Secretary to the Cabinet, a job that many critics have described as a supportive role in the top decision making organ.

It has been argued that the Ruto Cabinet has seven women to 22 men a far cry from the gender threshold.