Ruto allies tell off leaders ‘playing gender card’ in governor’s ouster

Thursday, June 11th, 2020 00:00 |
Public Service and Gender CS Margaret Kobia.

Hillary Mageka @hillarymageka

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru’s impeachment has further exposed the rift in the Jubilee Party, with leaders taking sides on the matter. 

Leaders allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta took a different stance from those who support Deputy President William Ruto, while some sought to play the gender card in the governor’s ouster. 

The divisions were sparked by a statement by Gender Affairs Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia, who alleged that Waiguru was impeached because she is a “strong woman leader.”

Some 23 out of 33 Members of Kirinyaga County Assembly (MCAs) voted to impeach Waiguru, four abstained while six were absent.

In a press statement dated June 10, Kobia regretted that Waiguru’s term was being cut short by an impeachment, which she claimed is an indicator that “some of us do not have value for strong women leadership.”

“We are disappointed the governor is being impeached during the fight against Covid-19 which is negatively impacting on social and economic development of the country.

I support the Common Women Agenda (Cowa) demand that due process is followed,” she said in the statement posted on her social media pages. 

Her sentiments were shared by Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu,  who said the travesty visited upon her Kirinyaga counterpart is one of the crooked ways that ‘PhD machinations’ are using to pull her down.

“We strongly condemn it. My sister Anne take heart, hold your head high and continue serving the people of Kirinyaga. You will be vindicated,” Ngilu wrote.

But those invoking the gender card were accused of bias, with Pro-Ruto leaders citing Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika, who was recently de-whipped as Majority Chief Whip.

 Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, a Ruto ally, dismissed Ngilu’s remarks, saying she was silent  when Kihika was being ousted.

“Her recent utterances aren’t about support for women but misplaced loyalty. Waiguru and Susan Kihika are both Jubilee members.

So was Governor Ferdinand Waititu and he deserved the same support,” Rigathi said in reference to the former Kiambu governor who was impeached by the Senate last December.

Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi echoed Rigathi’s remarks,  saying when Waititu was impeached no one sympathised with him. 

“However, when it comes to Waiguru, the government assembles all arsenals to defend her,” he said.

Kihika on her part, scorned Kobia for raising the gender issue. “Wondering if a similar letter from @CSMargaretKobia for @CecilyMbarire and I got lost in the mail? Could the Ministry of Gender not be aware that we are women too?,” she wrote on her Twitter account . 

Great exception

Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga, condemned the ouster, saying women leaders take great exception with the impeachment of the governor.

“This travesty flies in the face of the law given the court order stopping proceedings. In fact, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe should quarantine MCAs who slept in a single room in violation of Covid-19 rules,” Wanga said in reference to reports that MCAs spend the night in the Assembly plotting Waiguru’s impeachment.

Wanga alongside Gender Chief Administrative Secretary Rachel Shebesh and governors Waiguru and Ngilu have been the face of the regional Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) rallies, an initiative of the President and Opposition chief Raila Odinga.

But more Ruto’s dismissed Waiguru’s defenders as a “toxic feminist group”defending a governor accused of corruption.

Led by Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, the politicians accused Kobia of keeping tight-lipped when Kihika and Mbarire were being ousted from their House positions. Mbarire was stripped of her Deputy Majority Whip post.

“Susan Kihika and Cecily Mbarire, Kenyans want to know who you really are. In actual fact are you women or you have been fooling us all along? posed Murkomen, who was also removed as Senate Majority Leader.

Law Society of Kenya (LSK) President Nelson Havi also waded into the issue, saying she was elected by popular vote; not affirmative action.

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