Kenya banks on 152 constituencies to elect at least 70 women

Votes cast in a ballot box.

Photo credit: Photo | Pool

What you need to know:

  • No woman was cleared to run for the seat of member of National Assembly in 138 out of 290 constituencies.
  • The Constitution provides that not more than two-thirds of the members of the elective or appointive positions should be of the same gender in Parliament.

Kenya is banking on 152 constituencies to elect at least 70 women to the National Assembly to meet the two-thirds gender rule that has remained a hard nut to crack since 2013.

An analysis of the list of the August 9 General Election candidates gazetted by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) last week, shows that no woman was cleared to run for the seat of member of National Assembly in 138 out of the 290 constituencies.

A total of 225 women are vying for member of National Assembly seat countrywide. That is equivalent to 11 per cent of the 2,132 candidates gazetted to vie for the position. That number, however, is a remarkable increase of 40 per cent compared to 134 in 2017. While 48 per cent of the 290 constituencies had no National Assembly woman candidate, others attracted up to five.

Thika Town, Dagoretti North and Kajiado North have attracted the largest number of women eyeing a parliamentary seat. The three constituencies have attracted five women candidates each, while Lang’ata, Westlands and Kasarani have four women each. Maragwa, Narok and North Imenti have three women candidates each.

In Thika Town, Loise Njeri (Chama cha Kazi), Anne Mwikali (ODM), Jane Wanjiru Chege (The New Democrats), Alice Wambui (UDA) and Julia Mwihaki (Usawa kwa Wote) will contest against six male candidates to replace Patrick Wainaina alias Jungle, who is vying for governor in Kiambu.

In Dagoretti North, Caroline Lukalo (Federal Party of Kenya), Roselyne Maundu (Independent), Leocadia Nyanchama (Kenya National Congress), former Nairobi County Assembly Speaker Beatrice Elachi (ODM) and Cindy Katile Mwendwa of Ukweli Party are among 14 candidates jostling to succeed Simba Arati, who is contesting for the Kisii County gubernatorial seat.

Usawa’s Myllene Bosibori, Lucy Njeri of Democratic Action Party-Kenya (Dap-K), Anita Soina (Green Thinking Action), Jane Muthoni (Party of Democratic Unity) and Karen Wambui (The Service Party), and 11 others are wrestling for the Kajiado North parliamentary seat whose current occupant, Joseph Manje, is former Kajiado governor David ole Nkedianye’s running mate in the gubernatorial race.

Constitutional guarantee

Articles 27 (8) and 81 (b) of the Constitution provide for not more than two-thirds of the members of the elective or appointive positions to be of the same gender in Parliament.

The current National Assembly has 75 elected and nominated women MPs, which is 21.48 per cent of the 349-member House. The 349 members include 290 elected, 47 woman representatives and 12 nominated MPs.

The assembly requires at least 42 women MPs to comply with the gender principle in accordance with the 2010 Constitution. Of the 134 women that ran for member of National Assembly in 2017, only 23 were elected, among them Grace Jelagat Kipchoim (Baringo South), who died eight months after election and was replaced by Charles Kamuren.

The ruling Jubilee Party is leading with 33 female MP candidates, followed by Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance, with 22. The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) has sponsored 17 female candidates for member of National Assembly, and 36 women are running as independents.

Only 26 out of 47 counties have women candidates running for the senatorial seat. The IEBC list shows that out of 43 women contesting for senator, four are running as independents. Jubilee has seven women senatorial candidates while ODM and UDA follow with two candidates each.

The 26 counties will have to elect at least 10 female senators to meet the two-thirds gender rule constitutional requirement. Nairobi County leads with the biggest number of female candidates seeking to succeed Johnson Sakaja who is eyeing the gubernatorial seat on a UDA ticket.

Its senatorial seat has attracted 14 candidates, among them five women — Jacintah Wambui (Communist Party of Kenya), Pamela Ateka Mukolwe (Democratic Action Party-Kenya), Julie Wanjiru Kabogo (Chama Cha Kazi), Victoria Wanjiru (The Service Party) and Bishop Margaret Wanjiru (UDA).

Of the 67 members in the current Senate, 21 are women—three elected and 18 nominated. The number is below the 33 per cent required. Of 21 female candidates who contested senatorial seats in 2017, only three – Susan Kihika (Nakuru), Margaret Kamar (Uasin Gishu) and Fatuma Dullo (Isiolo) – were elected.

IEBC threat

In May, the IEBC threatened to lock out political parties whose nomination lists did not meet the two-thirds gender rule. But IEBC’s bid was met with hostility from political parties.

Major political parties defied the IEBC, insisting that the move would be tantamount to averting the wishes of the people.

“Residents nominated their preferred candidates democratically without any undue influence. There is no way we can force the electorate to elect people not of their choice, to satisfy the whims of the commission,” said UDA chairman Johnson Muthama at the time.

In September 2020, Chief Justice (CJ) David Maraga, now retired, advised President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve Parliament in line with Article 261(7) of the Constitution, for its failure to enact legislation on the gender rule.

In his advice to the President, the CJ said the mechanism for the dissolution of Parliament, irrespective of the consequences, was the radical remedy that Kenyans desired in order to incentivise the political elites to adhere to and fully operationalise the transformational agenda of the Constitution.

"Let us endure pain if only to remind the electorate to hold their parliamentary representatives accountable," he said.

The CJ had received petitions seeking the dissolution of Parliament from the Law Society of Kenya, former Marakwet West MP David Sudi, Margaret Toili, Fredrick Mbugua, Bernhard Aoko and Stephen Owoko. They all argued that Parliament had deliberately refused to enact the two-thirds gender law.

Article 261 (1) of the Constitution, read together with the Fifth Schedule, provides that the enactment of the two-thirds gender principle was among the things Parliament was to do within five years after the promulgation of the Constitution in 2010. This has not happened yet.

Though four different Bills have been introduced in both Houses, they have all met their Waterloo on the plenaries of the National Assembly and the Senate, where they have embarrassingly been either withdrawn from being placed to a vote or suffered technical defeats, with the houses failing to raise the requisite numbers to warrant their consideration.


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