Woman rep challenge for Kisii governor aspirants

Former Kisii Woman Rep Janet Ongera. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The position of woman representative to the National Assembly is emerging as one of a plethora of headaches for most governorship aspirants in Kisii.

Most have been forced to drop their initial choices and pick new ones as party and clan politics take centre stage.

Some of the aspirants have gone back to the drawing board in an effort to get strong candidates for the woman rep position.

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) are experiencing the greatest challenges in this regard.

The principle of shared political democracy has informally been adopted in Kisii to manage tricky political dynamics presented by the Constitution, which created counties.

Given the sensitivity of clan politics and balancing representation, the sharing of positions before elections has been the most harmonious way of avoiding conflict.

The equal sharing of political positions ensures that no one clan dominates the available leadership positions and helps unite the Abagusii to speak in one voice.

The Raila Odinga-led Azimio la Umoja coalition and particularly his ODM party is grappling with its choice for the woman rep seat in Kisii, just four months before the General Election.

Trouble started after ODM headquarters disregarded the lineup put together by the party’s gubernatorial flagbearer Simba Arati and endorsed outgoing Woman Rep Janet Ong’era, who insisted she was best placed to get a direct ticket.

After a feud between Mr Arati and Ms Ong’era that lasted over a month, Ms Ong’era was given a direct ticket.

This is even as the other aspirants under the ODM party demanded free and fair nominations.

On the day the party primaries were to be held — on Thursday last week — all MP and woman rep aspirants were summoned to the ODM party headquarters in Nairobi at the eleventh hour.

It was decided the party would use consensus to pick its flag-bearers for the two positions.

Notably, ODM has nominated two candidates to contest key positions — governor and woman rep — from the same clan of Bobasi.

Based on Kisii politics, this is the surest way of undermining the party’s chance to win over other clans.

"We are yet to decide which way to best solve this, but we will surely look for a workable plan," said Mr Kerosi Ondieki, the Kisii County ODM chairman.

Arati choice rejected by the party

In his original lineup, Mr Arati had former radio presenter Doris Aburi, aka Donya Toto, from Bonchari but this was dismissed by the party headquarters.

It is not clear how Mr Arati and Ms Ong’era will campaign, but sources indicate that the Arati team is contemplating supporting Ms Aburi as an independent candidate.

This will leave Ms Ong’era a lone ranger and she will have to hunt for votes single-handedly. She may also opt to join another lineup that lacks a woman rep aspirant.

"We have to go back to the drawing board. We are looking into the best way to sort out this. But it surely doesn't look good when we neglect other clans in favour of one," said Mr Arati.

Ms Brigid Ombati and Eveline Ogendo were also seeking the ODM ticket for the Kisii woman rep seat.

Deputy President William Ruto’s UDA, led by Nyaribari Masaba MP and former provincial administrator Ezekiel Machogu, has, on the other hand, picked Ms Teresa Bitutu, from Bonchari constituency, for the woman rep seat.

Ms Bitutu is the widow of former Bonchari MP Oroo Oyioka. She unsuccessfully vied for the Bonchari seat in a by-election held in May last year after the death of her husband.

She contested under UDA and finished third after ODM and Jubilee party candidates, respectively, to the surprise of many Kisii residents.

Ms Bitutu has all along been campaigning to secure the UDA ticket for the Bonchari Parliamentary seat but was brought in as the woman rep aspirant last week.

The decision by Mr Machogu's camp and the larger Kenya Kwanza Alliance has raised uproar and discontent after it left out other woman rep aspirants who have in the last one year criss-crossed Kisii County seeking votes.

"We have picked Ms Teresa Bitutu because of regional balancing and clan dynamics in Kisii," said Mr Machogu.

Other aspirants who had sought the UDA ticket for woman rep are Fontina Ngare, Esther Nyamwamu, Maureen Obino and Dolifine Bwari.

It is not clear who Prof Sam Ongeri of the Democratic Action Party-Kenya (DAP-K) has as the woman rep aspirant in his lineup.

The same is true for Mr Manson Nyamweya of the Kenya National Congress.

Former chief administrative secretary Chris Obure has picked Peris Onsarigo from Bomachoge.

Ms Onsarigo is a former Kisii County Administration executive.

Other aspirants for the woman rep seat include Dorice Nyaboke, Julie Nyanchama, Getrude Mogoi, Gladys Aunga, Risper Ndege, Rebecca Akemo and Lucy Machuki.


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