How Murang’a lost its glory as Kenya’s gender champion

In the 2017/2022 National Assembly, Murang'a County had the highest percentage (42 per cent) of elected women. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Murang'a County had the highest percentage (42 per cent) of elected women in the 2017/2022 National Assembly.
  • Of its seven constituencies, three had women MPs including Alice Wahome (Kandara), Wangari Mwaniki (Kigumo) and Mary wa Maua (Maragua).
  • The county's women’s leadership appears to be progressing consistently to a blown up crisis.

In the 2017/2022 National Assembly, Murang'a County had the highest percentage (42 per cent) of elected women. Of its seven constituencies, three had women MPs including Alice Wahome (Kandara), Wangari Mwaniki (Kigumo) and Mary wa Maua (Maragua).

Today, the glory as national champions of exceeding the two-thirds gender rule without any legislation is gone; only Wa Maua survived, by a whisker. Murang’a now stands at 14 per cent women representation.

The county’s fall as gender champion started after the August 9, 2022 General Election. Ms Mwaniki, for example, lost for lack of political instincts, not under-performance. While it was clear the county had embraced the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), she remained adamant to shift from Jubilee Party.

“In trying to get a female alternative to vie on UDA, we approached several women. But all those we scouted were threatened to a point they withdrew interest. We knew Ms Mwaniki would lose if she vied on a Jubilee ticket,” says Central region's Federation for African Women Educationist (Fawe) official, Elizabeth Njenga.

Ms Njenga says there was a covert scheme to support a woman in a Kenya Kwanza Alliance affiliate party "and we picked on Faith Njoya of the Farmers Party".

Favoured UDA

She says a month to election, it was certain the voters were not to be distracted from UDA. When the Kigumo votes were tallied, Ms Mwaniki came in third. The same intrigues played out in Maragua Constituency where Ms Wa Maua was blowing hot and cold in political choice between UDA and Jubilee. She had appeared all set to vie on a Jubilee ticket amid spirited efforts by UDA to rethink her position.

She sanctioned a ground opinion poll, which showed her constituency voters favoured UDA at 84 per cent. Ms Wa Maua jumped ship and arranged for a welcoming party attended by UDA presidential aspirant Dr William Ruto.

"We were happy to have Wa Maua in UDA. It was certain she was headed to lose if she remained stuck in Jubilee," Ms Njenga tells Nation.Africa.

For Ms Wahome, it was just a case of when the MPs’ swearing in would be held. She is a UDA founder member and a true loyalist to Dr Ruto. Ms Njenga adds: “We tried to shop for strong women aspirants in Mathioya, Gatanga, Kangema and Kiharu to vie on UDA party.”

The scouted women, she says, feared the UDA wave, which made party primaries masculine, manipulative and generally unorthodox.

“Like in Kiharu, none looked forward to contest against Ndindi Nyoro who was viewed as a political rock in UDA. We went to vote a very sad lot in the women lobbies, knowing too well that we were to lose one parliamentary seat,” Ms Njenga reveals.

True to their fears, when the votes were tallied only Wa Maua won a second term and Ms Wahome a third term.

“Until Dr Ruto picked Ms Wahome to serve as Water and Sanitation Cabinet Secretary...and we were thrust into hustling for a woman to replace her," Ms Njenga says.

They contacted Evelyn Waithera who had vied for the woman rep seat on a Jubilee ticket and lost, and Lucy Ngugi, who had vied for woman rep primaries in UDA and lost. We packaged the two as our hope to retain the seat...to our shock, Ms Wahome supported a male candidate," Ms Njenga laments.

Irredeemably weak

The UDA party too, she adds, was supporting a different male candidate to succeed Ms Wahome. "We knew that UDA, fate and we as women, had conspired to kill women agenda in the by-election. Even when Naivasha MP Jane Kihara tried to argue our case in a church function where the Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua attended, she was dismissed as airing own opinion," she says.

Ms Njenga adds: “We went to the primaries knowing our case was irredeemably weak.”

Ms Wahome and UDA's male preferences also flopped. The voters elected Chege Njuguna who came second in the August 9, General Election on a Chama Cha Kazi party.

When the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) released the final list of those to battle it out in the by-election, the women had lost it.

"Of the eight aspirants who we have cleared to proceed to compete in the January 5, by-election, none is a woman," the IEBC official announced.

Murang'a women’s leadership appears to be progressing consistently to a blown up crisis.

“Ms Wa Maua and Woman Rep Betty Maina are fighting Ms Wahome. After going down in parliamentary numbers, the ones we have as our pride are now engaged in a senseless war of words," Ms Njenga says.

Ms Maina while flanked by Ms Wa Maua on January 6, at Ng'araria Girls High School tallying centre, accused Ms Wahome of behaving like a village plumber when she is a Water CS.

Ms Maina was at it again when she appeared on Inooro TV accusing Ms Wahome of being a political traitor.

The council of elders has now asked Ms Maina "to learn how to promote women in power instead of fighting them".

The elders, last Friday, lamented that "our problem in realising the two-third gender rule appear to be in the women themselves".

Through Njoroge Kiama, the elders said: "We as voters have shown that we can vote for women. Instead of them building on that trust and scheme on how to capture all elective seats, they are busy bringing each other down".

Ms Wahome told Nation.Africa that she has been busy in office and has not had an opportunity to listen to Ms Maina's claims.

“I have been very busy...I have not had an opportunity to hear her claims. I have been visiting the ground to inspect dams...on Friday, I was touring Gatundu North where we have a Sh13 billion Ndarugu dam coming up...I might not get time soon to engage in sideshows,” she said.

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