Women MPs defy parties’ wave as poll date draws closer
Posted Saturday, October 13 2012 at 23:24
- In the past few weeks, there has been widespread speculation on which MPs from the Rift Valley will back Mr Ruto and URP.
- While Cabinet minister and Aldai MP Dr Sally Kosgei remains in ODM, Beatrice Kones (Bomet) and Prof Margaret Kamar (Eldoret East) have not formally declared their parties of choice.
- Dr Joseph Magutt, a political science lecturer at Kenyatta University, said the Kalenjin were witnessing a new development in women’s politics.
- Four of the women MPs – Kamar, Kosgei, Laboso and Sambili – have doctorate degrees.
Women MPs from the Rift Valley are engaged in a last-ditch effort to retain their seats, including changing political parties.
Sotik’s Joyce Laboso, an ODM legislator, has changed her allegiance to the William Ruto-led United Republican Party (URP), joining her Eldoret South colleague, Peris Simam, who has stuck with Mr Ruto since the formation of that party.
Cooperatives assistant minister Linah Jebii Kilimo, MP for Marakwet East, has joined The National Alliance (TNA) and Mogotio’s Hellen Sambili has gone to Kanu.
While Cabinet minister and Aldai MP Dr Sally Kosgei remains in ODM, Beatrice Kones (Bomet) and Prof Margaret Kamar (Eldoret East) have not formally declared their parties of choice.
The move by Prof Sambili, who went to Parliament in 2007 on a United Democratic Movement (UDM) ticket, has set tongues wagging. In 2007, she was the only legislator in the region elected on a UDM ticket.
In her early days in Parliament, the MP aligned herself with ODM, who rewarded her with a Cabinet post. But ODM lost ground in Rift Valley to URP which was formed by Mr Ruto after fomenting a rebellion in the Orange party.
Prof Sambili later lost her Cabinet post after she aligned herself with Mr Ruto’s camp. Ms Kilimo, who was elected on a Kenda party ticket in 2007, says her choice of political party does not matter to her or her constituents.
“Changing parties for me is not a big deal. My constituents know the current political dynamics and I have no problem. Even our party initials (TNA) are good for all,” she told the Sunday Nation on the phone.
Mother of peace
The politician, who rides on her Kalenjin slogan Ya kalia (mother of peace), said: “I am not alone in this journey. Maybe my colleagues, who have taken independent decisions, also share the same sentiments with their constituents.”
Ms Kilimo’s popularity has been boosted by her efforts to stamp out female circumcision and cattle rustling as well as the push for resettlement of squatters evicted from Embobut forest.
She allied herself with Mr Ruto’s camp after joining him in the campaign against the constitution in the 2010 referendum. But she recently decamped to TNA, throwing political pundits into a spin.
While URP enjoys huge support in the North Rift, Ms Kilimo’s exit was seen as a blow in Elgeyo Marakwet county. She was accused of demanding a direct nomination which the party declined.
In a breakfast talk show broadcast in a Kalenjin-language FM station last Monday, Mr Ruto assured aspirants that the party’s nominations would be free and fair.
“Let me assure you that no one, including sitting MPs, will get direct nomination. All of them must face the electorate along with other aspirants.
"Kilimo has been demanding to be given a direct nomination, something that is against the wishes of the party members and also the party constitution. But I wish her well in her endeavours,” Mr Ruto said.