Kawira Mwangaza trounces Kiraitu and Linturi in Meru

Meru governor-elect Kawira Mwangaza

Meru governor-elect Kawira Mwangaza and her deputy Isaac M'Ethingia display their certificate after receiving it from County Returning Officer William Ndungu on August 12, 2022.

Photo credit: Gitonga Marete | Nation Media Group

Meru Woman Rep Kawira Mwangaza has trounced two heavyweights to win the county’s gubernatorial seat in a victory that sent shockwaves across the region.

She beat incumbent Governor Kiraitu Murungi and Senator Mithika Linturi, stamping the authority of growing influence of female leaders in a society regarded as patriarchal.

Ms Mwangaza garnered 209,148 votes against her closest challenger, Mr Linturi, who got 183,859 votes, while Mr Murungi came last with 110,814 votes.

The outgoing woman representative received support from across the county, having won majority votes in six out of the nine constituencies. In Mr Murungi's South Imenti backyard, she got 31,921 against the outgoing governor's 22,359 votes.

Dismissed as non-starter

During campaigns, Mr Murungi had dismissed her as a non-starter, exuding confidence that he would easily reclaim his seat especially after Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya dropped out of the race.

The tallying centre was on Friday fully packed with excited supporters who were keen on witnessing the historic win.

The Meru School hall was engulfed in a carnival mood when County Returning Officer William Ndungu declared Ms Mwangaza the governor-elect.

Elated after win

Speaking after receiving her certificate, Ms Mwangaza said she was elated to be elected the county chief.

"I promise sustainable development and Meru will be the best county in Kenya. I will also ensure I unite Meru residents so that we speak in one voice and work together," she said.

Accompanied by her running mate Isaac M'Ethingia and husband Murega Baicu, she promised to deliver on her ambitious manifesto.

Mr Baicu, a musician, was armed with his guitar, which has been a key tool in their campaign.

He did not hesitate to strum away as supporters danced to celebrate his darling's victory.

Also present during the announcement was Tigania East MP-elect Mpuru Aburi, a close ally of Mr Munya, whose rivalry with Mr Murungi was not even healed by their being in the Azimio la Umoja coalition.

First woman MP

The last time a woman was elected in a top seat in Meru — before the creation of the woman rep’s position — was in 1975 when Ms Annrita Karimi won the South Imenti parliamentary seat.

She was, however, hounded out of the seat in 1978 with trumped up charges allegedly perpetrated by then Meru politician Kabeere M'Mbijiwe and was jailed for 18 months. The incident instilled fear in women who never sought elective seats until the promulgation of the Constitution in 2010 that brought in the women rep’s seat.

New senator

In the Senate race, outgoing Imenti South MP Kathuri Murungi (UDA) won with a landslide. He was declared winner with 340,442 votes while Mr James Mithika (Jubilee) came second with 39,716 votes.

Mr Kathuri pledged to work with all elected leaders including Ms Mwangaza.

"The most important thing is to make sure we move Meru forward," he said.

Ms Elizabeth Kailemia Karambu was elected woman rep on a UDA ticket after garnering 259,445 votes against her closest challenger, Ms Felicity Nkirote Biriri (DEP), who got 164,280 votes.

Ms Karambu, who was making her third attempt, trounced 10 other candidates in the contest.

"I want to assure the people of Meru that I will work hard for their progress," she said.

The woman rep-elect joined politics at the start of devolution when she emerged second in the contest for the seat. In 2017, she made her second attempt but lost to Ms Mwangaza.