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Women eye top seats across Rift Valley’s 14 counties

By Steve Mkawale | April 4th 2021
Uasin Gishu Senator Margaret Kamar. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The high number of women eyeing gubernatorial and senate seats across the Rift Valley is a sign that the hitherto male-dominated political scene is ripe for a shake-up.

Although the General Election is still 17 months away, battles are already underway in the counties as the aspirants seek to align themselves with leading parties and presidential contenders.

There are already clear rivalries between the Tangatanga and Kieleweke factions in the ruling Jubilee party, and the women-led Inua Mama and Team Embrace.

Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika has declared her intentions to unseat Governor Lee Kinyanjui. 

Ms Kihika is a member of Inua Mama and Tangatanga, which support Deputy President William Ruto’s presidential candidature.

Kihika is upbeat about her quest to become the first woman governor of Nakuru and she has been busy mobilising her supporters and selling the newly formed United Democratic Alliance.

“I am definitely going for the gubernatorial seat and I am prepared for the challenge. It is important for women to go for the top positions in counties,” she said.

In Uasin Gishu, Senator Margaret Kamar will be in the race to succeed Governor Jackson Mandago.

Prof Kamar’s political star has been on the rise since she was nominated as a member of the East African Legislative Assembly, and chaired the Environment, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Tourism committee.

Kamar was elected senator in 2017 and was elected as deputy speaker in the Senate.

In Elgeyo Marakwet, university don Loice Jemencho and Lina Kilimo, the Cabinet Administrative Secretary for Agriculture, are preparing to succeed Governor Alex Tolgos.

Dr Jemencho said her candidature is informed by a desire to bring the change she wants to see in development in the region "that has been marginalised for long."

"For years, the region has had high poverty levels and poor infrastructure, water provision, health and electricity connectivity, among other essential services.

"Since the colonial era, post-Independence and 10 years of devolution, we have not seen the changes that we want to have in Elgeyo Marakwet.

"We want to manage local resources and also influence international partners to propel wealth creation in the county. I believe I have the potential to bring change,” she said.

She said that since 1992, she has campaigned for leaders in the region in the hope of seeing economic growth but majority of residents still languish in poverty due to the slow pace of wealth creation. 

The region, she added, has potential in agriculture but bad roads have denied residents opportunity to access markets and profit from their produce.

As Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony prepares to leave office, Mary Rotich, the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) Kericho branch executive, has said that the time for a woman to take over the county’s reins has dawned.

Ms Rotich is buoyed by her victory in the branch elections where she rallied seven women to clinch various positions in the union.

"The governor's seat now requires a woman. The idea is not just about filling the position with a woman but someone who has new ideas and the ability to deliver on the development agenda,” Rotich told the Sunday Standard.

Declared interest

Narok MP Soipan Tuya has declared her intentions to succeed Governor Samuel Tunai, who is serving his second term.

Ms Tuya said that if the proposed Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill is passed, it will force women representatives to compete for elective posts in the Senate. 

She exuded confidence that she has delivered on her mandate as a Woman Rep and encouraged residents to support her bid. She promised to serve 'transparently' regardless of the electorates' tribes and clans.

Her declaration sparked a series of political realignments in the county with Deputy Governor Evelyn Aruasa saying she will vie for the Narok South parliamentary seat in 2022.

Other women have declared interest in unseating Senator Ledama ole Kina. They include Maasai Mara University lecturer Lolly Malaso, Esther Nampaso (Usanga Initiative Coordinator) and Rebecca Tonkei, who is a consultant on education matters in the deputy president's office.

Anti-female genital mutilation board chair Agnes Pareiyo is eyeing the Narok North parliamentary seat currently held by MP Moitalel ole Kenya.

In Nyandarua, former school principal Georgina Mathenge has declared her intentions to vie for the position of governor.

"I have what it takes to be the next governor of Nyandarua. What a man can do, a woman can do better,” said the former Shamata Girls High School principal. 

[Additional reporting by Titus Too, Nikko Tanui and Robert Kiplagat]

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