Kawira Mwangaza: Riding against the tide of patriarchy

Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza at a press briefing in Meru on October 24, 2022. Just three months into office, she survived an ouster attempt at the Senate on December 30, 2022. 

Photo credit: David Muchui | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Governor Kawira Mwangaza survived an ouster attempt at the Senate on December 30, 2022, just three months into office.
  • This year, season two of the governor’s fight with the “ghosts” saw her cross swords with her deputy Rev Isaac Mutuma after he accused her of side-lining him.
  • Kawira says she will not allow the elite to control her government, insisting that she has her own working style.

A year after Governor Kawira Mwangaza shocked the Ameru community by flooring two seasoned politicians, the ghosts of the patriarchal society that Meru is still haunt her.

Ms Mwangaza defeated her predecessor Kiraitu Murungi and Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi in the August 9, 2022 poll.

Just three months into office, she survived an ouster attempt at the Senate on December 30, 2022. The county assembly had voted to impeach her over claims that she was overstepping her mandate and refused to award the ward development fund.

This impeachment put Ms Mwangaza into loggerheads with her deputy Rev Isaac Mutuma, with the governor accusing him of siding with her enemies.

This year, season two of the governor’s fight with the “ghosts” saw her cross swords with Mr Mutuma after he accused her of side-lining him, sacking his staff and denying him funds to run his office. She then relocated his office to an old block, saying he had abdicated his duty.

Ms Mwangaza has also pointed fingers at Meru politicians, particularly Senator Kathuri Murungi and Tigania East MP Mpuru Aburi of inciting Mr Mutuma against her.

Recently, during an interdenominational prayer service at Laare, Igembe North, attended by President William Ruto, his deputy Rigathi Gachagua, nearly all Meru MPs and a host of other leaders, Mr Murungi suggested that Mr Linturi becomes the Meru political point man. Mr Aburi supported the former. Other MPs who supported Murungi’s proposal were Rahim Dawood (Imenti North), John Mutunga (Tigania East), Julius Taitumu (Igembe North), Rindikiri Mugambi (Buuri), John Paul Mwirigi (Igembe North), Dan Kiili (Igembe Central) and Dorothy Muthoni (nominated).

Working style

Senator Kathuri, however, protested saying he had not been consulted. “If we are to remain united we need to consult widely before arriving at some decisions,” he said.

Ms Mwangaza said she would not allow the elite to control her government, insisting that she has her own working style.

“Meru will not be ruled by a few cartels and elites who have refused to accept that I defeated them. A few men have not come to terms that a woman won the contest, and is today the governor of Meru,” she said.

Former governor Peter Munya who supported Ms Mwangaza in the August polls through Mr Aburi, has been quiet as the controversy raged. But Mr Aburi has since fallen out with the governor and has launched a scathing attack on her.

Maendeleo ya Wanawake Meru County chairperson Mary Kanana, says men have not come to terms that a woman is the political kingpin in a largely patriarchal society.

“Kawira has a unique style of doing her things and she has unsettled the status quo since she is a hands-on leader who is not used to sitting in the office. While the two former governors used to work in offices, she is going to the ground and inspecting all projects however small, which is what mwananchi wants,” Ms Kanana said.

A ruthless grassroots mobiliser, Ms Mwangaza won the election riding on her work with the masses in the rural areas where, as a woman rep from 2017, she ran a campaign to help the poor by giving them simple items such as mattresses and gumboots, and removing jiggers from their feet.

Governor Kawira Mwangaza (2nd right) walks out of the Senate chambers after her impeachment case was dismissed on December 30, 2022. She is accompanied by (from left) her deputy Isaac Mutuma, Senator Gloria Orwoba and nominated Senator Mutinda Maureen Tabitha. 

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Her husband Murega Baichu broadcasted a programme dubbed “Okolea kaana ka Meru” (save the Meru child) in their Baite TV channel, propelling the Baite Fellowship Bishop into limelight.

As governor, she has continued to visit the rural areas with her “Okolea” programme, locking other players out of the matrix. This is what has probably rattled other politicians who fear that should the programme continue for the next four years, the 2027 contest will be a walkover for Ms Mwangaza.

“For a long time, we thought the Meru community was progressive. When we saw people shed tears and confess they would sleep on a mattress for the first time in their lives, we were shocked. We discovered that even as we talk of Meru being ‘the land of prosperity’, we were wrong. The governor has transformed the Meru political scene and other players are uncomfortable,” Ms Kanana added.

Gideon Kimathi, who served in Mr Murungi’s administration as Chief of Staff and has since joined Ms Kawira’s office as economic advisor, said people should now accept that Ms Mwangaza won the election.

“When Kiraitu was governor, he was against Munya (who was Agriculture Cabinet Secretary) being declared the area political point man. What has changed now that Kawira is governor? Why does he want to bypass her and declare Linturi the leader of the Ameru community? The Ameru elected their leader and we should respect that,” he said in a phone interview.

An official of Njuri Ncheke council of elders who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it is clear men have not accepted that a woman was their leader.

“The truth is that we are not giving her the respect she deserves. We are seeing her first as a woman, which is not right. For the prosperity of Meru, Kawira must be supported,” the elder said.


Prof Gitile Naituli, a governance expert and lecturer at Multimedia University, however, said Ms Mwangaza needs to settle down and govern using her own style, and resist falling into detractors’ trap.

“She should also tone down on her attacks on real and perceived enemies because it weakens her. If men are not happy with a woman being the boss that should not be her problem,” Prof Gitile said.

“Naturally, men are uncomfortable with a woman who fights them but if she uses her feminine nature she can easily lure them into her fold. I would advise her to be more tactical in her approach and use the motherly appeal,” he added.

Ms Mwangaza’s experience rekindles memories of Meru first female MP Annrita Karimi, who was hounded out of office by then political bigwigs.

After winning the Meru South seat in 1975, Ms Karimi was jailed in 1978 for, 18 months, over trumped up charges levelled against her by competitors. After she was released she quit politics.

It was only after the advent of devolution that brought in the Woman Rep position that a female was elected into parliament.

Currently, while there is no elected woman MP, only one woman MCA (Jennifer Morocho, Kiirua/Naari) was elected to the 69-member county assembly where 45 are elected while 22 out of the 24 nominated are women.