Only two women in the bullfight that is November 7 Kibra by-election contest

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019 09:31 |
Editha Adhiambo, of Ukweli Party, and Malasen Hamida, of Green Party

 By Odhiambo Orlale

 Only two of the 24 candidates in the Kibra by-election are women. 

They are Editha Adhiambo, of Ukweli Party, and Malasen Hamida, of Green Party, both of who have a background in the civil society working with communities in the sprawling slums.

The 24 candidates include 16 sponsored by political parties and seven who are independent candidates. 

Women leaders who would have been expected to throw their weight behind the women candidates are deeply divided between the Embrace Team, which is allied to Deputy President William Ruto’s Tanga Tanga faction, and the Inua Mama, which is allied to Kieleweke Team, the Jubilee camp which is campaigning against the DP.

In the circumstances, most of the women politicians are either backing Jubilee Party’s candidate McDonald Mariga or ODM’s Bernard Imran Okoth.

Other notable candidates in the race are former Raila’s aide Eliud Owalo, who is Musalia Mudavadi ANC’s candidate and and Khamisi Butichi of Ford Kenya.

The face of gender bias in Kenyan elections resurfaced after the seat was declared vacant by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) following the death of Ken Okoth. 

Of the 27 aspirants who gunned for Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s ODM party’s ticket, none of them was a woman. 

Two women out of the 16 that showed interest in Jubilee’s ticket were women. Doreen Wasike and Jane Githaiga, however, lost to Mariga who was picked after an interview of the aspirants by the Jubilee National Election Board. 

Financial muscle

Besides the usual gender bias in Kenyan politics, would-be women aspirants face other barriers in their quest for the sponsorship of the big parties. 

The challenges include the chaotic, even violent, nature of party primaries and the lack of financial muscle, to enter the nominations, let alone to mount a successful campaign.

For example, in the Kibra by-election, each aspirant had to cough up at least Sh20,000 for life membership and Sh250,000 for the nomination exercise, depending on the popularity of the party. 

All aspirants also to pay Sh50,000 to obtain IEBC clearance certificate.

As Adhiambo and Hamida fight it out for the 118,276 votes that are up for grabs in the November 7 by-election, the odds are heavily stacked against them.

Okoth’s record

One is that they are sponsored by little-known parties with neither a national representation or financial heft to help them carry out a viable campaign.

The two candidates are also greenhorns on the political arena, with only their civil society background working with local communities as an advantage. 

Like all the other candidates, the women also have the task of convincing the residents of Kibra that they can match, or even best Ken Okoth’s much-vaunted development record and obvious popularity.

Apart from Okoth, the constituency — which was part of the larger Lang’ata before the 2013 General Election — has previously been represented by political giants including Raila, former vice president Joseph Murumbi, Philip Leakey and Mwangi Mathai. 

The candidates will have to prove to the voters that they have what it takes to fill the huge shoes of their predecessors, besides solving the many problems facing the people living in Kenya’s largest urban slum.

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