What you need to know:
- Lawmaker first emerged on the political scene in 2013 but suffered a defeat for being in the wrong party.
- In 2015, she was awarded the Order of the Grand Warrior (OGW) for her contribution to entrepreneurship.
Should the ongoing investigation into the high electricity cost bear fruit, and Kenyans subsequently begin to enjoy affordable rates, Laikipia Woman Representative Jane Kagiri could emerge as the saviour who alleviated wananchi’s pain.
The high cost of electricity has been singled out as one of the major drivers of high inflation in the country. The motion on the reduction of the cost of electricity was among her first assignments.
The probe being conducted by the National Assembly Energy Committee, led by Mwala MP Vincent Musyoka, has attracted a number of suggestions, which they believe could help reduce the cost of power.
Among them is a scrutiny of power purchasing contracts between independent power producers (IPPs) and Kenya Power, with the former being accused of overcharging the public utility firm.
On the other hand, IPPs have denied any wrongdoing and instead called on the MPs to review Kenya Power's efficiencies and ensure an overall reduction in rampant power theft.
In her motion before the National Assembly, Ms Kagiri had accused Kenya Power of procuring a larger quantity of power from the IPPs at a higher cost, rather than from KenGen, a public electricity generating firm, leading to exorbitant charges.
Ms Kagiri’s prowess in debates might deceive you into believing she has been in the National Assembly for more than one term.
Recently, she singlehandedly halted the debate on the Marriage (Amendment) Bill by Suna West MP Peter Masara, who is proposing the introduction of divorce by mutual consent clause to allow couples to petition court if their marriage is irretrievably broken.
Ms Kagiri, a United Democratic Alliance legislator, vehemently rejected the Bill, arguing that it was an outright affront to the Constitution. She said the law could be misused by foreigners to take advantage of Kenyan girls, thus using and dumping them.
National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula concurred, noting that Parliament had a fundamental duty to protect the institution of marriage.
“The moment you turn a marriage into an instant coffee affair, then we'll have no society,” said Mr Wetang’ula, promising to give a detailed ruling on the fate of the Bill in two weeks.
Fixed a sister’s crown
Despite being new in Parliament, Ms Kagiri was among the vocal MPs who saved Tourism Cabinet Secretary Peninah Malonza from being dropped, after the vetting panel in October last year asked the House to reject her claiming she had little grasp of tourism matters.
Before venturing into politics, Ms Kagiri, who holds a master's degree from the United States International University, was an entrepreneur.
“I ventured into business because I obtained my Bachelor of Computer Science from the University of Madras, Chennai, where they teach learners to be an employer and not an employee,” she says.
“I started my company in 2007 and tried to do business with the government, but it was hard. I realised that it was a tall order for a young person to do business with the government, probably due to a lack of connections and experience.”
The urge to change the policy to enable the youth to access equal opportunities in government business pushed her to join the murky world of politics. “I decided to throw my hat in the ring in 2013 with the aim of pushing policy change in Parliament to enable the youth to access opportunities.”
But her dream of joining the National Assembly was dashed after she was swept away by the political waves of former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s The National Alliance (TNA) party that enjoyed a fanatical following in the Mt Kenya region.
“From that experience, I learned that the voter has the final say on what party to use in an election. They beseeched me to jump ship to TNA, but I defied them and remained in the small party and was defeated,” she says.
“After losing the election, I went back to my business. But this time round, the law had changed, and 30 per cent of procurement opportunities were reserved for women, youths, and people living with disabilities. My company started training women, the youth, and PwDs in how to access their share of procurement opportunities in government.”
In 2015, she was recognised by Mr Kenyatta and awarded the Order of the Grand Warrior (OGW) for her contribution to entrepreneurship. In the same year, she was elected the vice chairperson of the Gender and Youth Sector Board at the Kenya Private Sector Alliance.
In 2018, she won the Young Entrepreneurs Award from the Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum in Cape Town, South Africa, and the following year she bagged the Enterprising Woman of the Year Award from the Enterprising Women Foundation in Florida, USA.
In 2020, she landed a job in the Executive Office of the President as an adviser on gender, youth, and ICT and was later seconded to the defunct Nairobi Metropolitan Service in the same capacity. She resigned in 2022 and went on to vie for the woman rep seat on the UDA ticket.
“I was breastfeeding during the campaign period, but the people of Laikipia supported me and coined a slogan that ‘the baby will breastfeed in Parliament.’”
“I was educated by the people of Laikipia, that is why I have been sponsoring a number of children in the county. I have been fundraising to support the girls with sanitary towels in partnership with the British Army Training Unit in Kenya, and mobilising wheelchairs and food in collaboration with the Chandaria Foundation,” she says.
“I have been vocal on my people getting title deeds, the Nanyuki-Rumuruti road being tarmacked, electricity connection and water availability to our people.”
Being a first-term MP, what lesson has she learnt in Parliament?
“I have learned that Parliament can be intimidating, especially when you are new, but it is up to one to stand firm and chart their own path. Secondly, I have learned that MPs have a human heart just like any other Kenyans,” Ms Kagiri says.
“When my father got unwell and finally passed away, the MPs supported me. They are brothers and sisters to me. I continue to draw great mentorship from our President, William Ruto, who has been of great guidance on my political journey.”