Nakuru prepares red carpet for women leaders ahead of IEBC official results

Nakuru county gubernatorial aspirant Susan Kihika after casting her vote at Komongo polling station in Bahati Nakuru county on August 9, 2022

Photo credit: Cheboite Kigen | Nation Media Group

Ahead of the official release of results from the 2022 General Election, Nakuru County is setting the ball rolling as the bedrock of women leadership in Kenya.

Although official results have not been announced, all indications are that women's leadership might be expanded if the trend in the streaming of results is anything to go by.

This eagerly awaited outcome will usher in a new dawn for women's leadership in Nakuru, with residents saying this would change their lives for the better.

“I have voted for a six-piece men leadership, but this time I have deviated and elected women and I hope they will make a significant change in the way Nakuru is governed and translate into economic prosperity for all residents,” said Ms Florence Muthoni Muchiri, from Racetrack in Nakuru Town East.

Senator Susan Kihika, who is challenging incumbent Lee Kinyanjui for the governor’s seat, exuded confidence that she would win. She has started early celebrations before the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) announced the official results.

"I take this opportunity to thank the great people of Nakuru who came out in large numbers to vote on August 9. Thank you for giving me a resounding mandate to be the third governor of our great county,” she posted on Facebook.

“It is a huge privilege and honour but it's also not lost on me how great a responsibility it is. My singular duty will now be to devote every effort of body, mind and spirit to lead our county to economic prosperity and make it work for all.

“Thank you Nakuru County for your love and support, I promise to never let you down."

And if her predictions come true, she will enter the political history books of Nakuru County as the first woman governor. She scored another first when she clinched the senator seat in 2017.

Political pundits in the region say that if the results streaming to various polling stations are anything to go by, Nakuru's political landscape will be women-led.

Nakuru, perhaps the most cosmopolitan county in Kenya, is slowly becoming a safe space for women political leaders, and this might be the start of gender parity that has been a lingering headache in the country.

But even before the hotly contested elections, Nakuru had proved to the other counties that it is possible to have women in top leadership positions. It had elected four top women leaders –Senator Kihika and MPs Jayne Kihara (Naivasha), Martha Wangare (Gilgil) and Charity Kathambi Chepkwony (Njoro), who are all seeking reelection.

This leadership was strengthened and complemented by the election of Woman Rep Liza Chelule, while other women were elected in the county’s 55 wards.

But this year, a dramatic political change is in the offing, if the women lined up for various top positions clinch the seats.

Ms Tabitha Karanja, the owner of Keroche Breweries, is also on the verge of making political history if she clinches the senator seat. This will complete a 1-2-3 podium finish for top political leaders in the county – that is, if Ms Kihika is elected governor and Ms Karanja senator, and if Ms Chelule retains the woman rep seat.

The popularity of Ms Kihika, Ms Karanja, Ms Kihara, Ms Wangare and Ms Chepkwony and others has no doubt been fuelled by the strong United Democratic Alliance (UDA) wave that has painted the county yellow.

The four incumbent women leaders faced a steep mountain as they contested against veteran male politicians, but they seem poised to retain their seats thanks to their superb development agenda that is visible on the ground.

But the one woman leader who went against the grain and has taken the giant by its horn is Ms Irene Njoki (Jubilee), who is seeking the Bahati parliamentary seat under Jubilee.

If she beats outspoken Bahati MP Onesmus Kimani Ngunjiri (UDA), the victory is likely to be translated into one huge political party celebration in the agriculturally rich constituency.

Three days before the elections were held, the flamboyant MP, who is seeking a historic third term, made what seemed like his last prayers and appeal to Bahati’s 97,040 registered voters before the final political execution at the ballot box.

"My dear Bahati People, it is yet another moment to decide our destiny for the next five years,” Mr Ngunjiri wrote on Facebook.

“I was awarded as the best-performing MP in Kenya, today, my competitor Irene Njoki is busy doing everything that we have done for the Bahati people through the well-managed CDF in the last five years.

“She has done this in less than 6 months to elections, giving our children bursaries, scholarships, water for our people, and gifts as well as household shopping.

“I will not stop her from bringing gifts to you, connecting water to you, or giving your children bursaries and scholarships, they truly deserve any form of assistance to improve their lives."

He added: "But someone doing it from her pocket, six months to the elections and not for the last 10 years as I have been doing makes you understand that her assistance and help to the people of Bahati is purposely for this electioneering period.

“I am therefore urging you to kindly be wise as you receive the gifts and money to vote. The decisions you make today and the choices you make today, you will [live] with it for the next five years."

Irrespective of the outcome, more than 2.1 million residents of Nakuru should start preparing for women's leadership that will remain highly influential in the social and economic development of the cosmopolitan county.