Kericho MCAs lock horns over alleged sexual harassment during retreat

Nominated female MCAs at a press conference in Kericho on September 26, 2022 accusing their male colleague of sexually harassing them during a retreat at a Kisumu hotel

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

A member of the Kericho County Assembly (MCA] is in the eye of a storm after being accused of sexually harassing his female colleagues.

Some 16 female MCAs have recorded a statement at the Kericho Police Station over the incident that allegedly happened in Kisumu County during a retreat.

The MCAs also sought the help of the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (Fida) as they demanded action against the lawmaker.

It is claimed that the MCA insulted his colleagues at the Ciala Resort in Kisumu on September 23 during an induction workshop organised by the assembly after the lawmakers were sworn in and elected their Speaker, Dr Patrick Mutai.

Nominated MCA Fancy Korir and her Chemosot ward colleague Anita Biegon ((the only elected female MCA in the county) made the claims at a press conference on Monday.

The accused is Kamasian MCA Phillip Rono, who is alleged to have “harassed and insulted” the women.

“He sexually harassed MCAs in [the] full glare of members. It is not only demeaning but disrespectful to the mothers in the county and the country,” Ms Korir said.

“How can a member of the assembly brand his colleagues as having got their positions through sexual favours.”

But Mr Rono claimed the women were offended when he said some of them were nominated to take seats meant for people with disabilities.

But the female MCAs held a different view on the matter, which has kicked up a storm a few days before the first formal sitting of the assembly.

Ms Korir said the MCA’s behaviour “does not befit a member of the county assembly ….”

Ms Biegon said: “When a leader stands and utter words to demean women in leadership especially those who were nominated with claims they got their positions as a result of sexual favours, that is totally unacceptable.”

She added: “When we are given an opportunity to lead, it is because we qualify for the positions and not because of sexual favours. Let us learn to respect women in leadership.”

In a rejoinder, Mr Rono said he welcomed the offended female MCAs’ decision to go to court and co-opt Fida, adding that the authorities should investigate the claims and take appropriate action.

Kamasian Ward MCA Philiph Rono who has been accused of sexually harassing nominated female MCAs at Kericho county Assembly, defending himself against the claims on September 26, 2022 in Kericho town

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

“I did not exchange words with the female MCAs as claimed. The contest was about who will be elected to the various committees. I have just been framed yet I am innocent,” Mr Rono said in a statement.

“They are still new and excited, but they will learn over time to take some of the differences in stride. A number of them are too young and have not settled in their position.”

He added: “I am a human rights champion and perhaps they were appalled by the fact that I raised opposition over the nomination of some of them in [the] place of people living with disabilities.

“It is a matter I will continue speaking about as I consider the assembly not properly constituted as a result.”

A storm is raging in Kericho County over the United Democratic Alliance’s (UDA) failure to nominate people with disabilities, with two candidates – Mr Benjamin Koech and Ms Beatrice Langat – being dropped from the final list though they were in the first one.

Senate Majority Leader Aron Cheruiyot and Governor Erick Mutai have blamed the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for the anomaly.

“UDA forwarded six names under the youth and PWDs category to the IEBC for nomination. But when the final list was published, it dawned on us that the commission had omitted the PWDs from those who were picked,” Mr Cheruiyot said.

Dr Mutai said he had agreed with Senator Cheruiyot to ensure that the two are helped to secure jobs.

The nominated MCAs include Koskey Kipng’etich Vincent, representing the youth, Opile Noela Omollo (minority), Issack Matkeir (marginalised) and Mercy Njeri Gikonyo (marginalised).

The others are Chepkirui Edinah Tonui, Beatrice Chepkemoi, Korir Fancy Chepkorir, Langat Chepkoech Winny, Chelangat Monica, Chebwogen Evaline, Bavina Chepkirui, Bett Gladys Sang, Chepng’eno Jesca, Langat Irine Chebet, Sirma Lily Chepkemoi, and Chepngeno Gabriela.

People with disabilities were also excluded from the Jubilee list of nominated MCAs in 2017. The party was dominant in Kericho at the time.