After venturing into male-dominated political arena in the country, women seeking elective positions in Nyeri are getting it rough due to increased physical violence and intimidation as August General Election nears.
The women have complained of intimidation by their male competitors through hiring of goons and gender discrimination.
Some have also suffered physical violence and destruction of their campaign materials while admitting that they are financially constrained.
Ms Ann Kanyi, who is running for Tetu parliamentary seat, is lucky to be alive following an attack by four masked men armed with metal bars and a gun at Mbaaini village.
She narrated that her car was blocked from the opposite direction on Friday evening by a grey Toyota Fielder whose registration number was concealed.
She said the attackers jumped out of their vehicle and smashed windows of her car before dragging her out and assaulting her.
Ms Kanyi sustained back, leg and neck injuries and also a knee dislocation. Currently she leaps while walking with an aid of a stick.
She was on her campaigns convincing voters to support her bid in the Jubilee Party.
Her driver, a Mr Mathenge, was also not spared during the broad daylight incident, as the assailants also rained on him with the weapons.
“I thank God to be alive because I heard one of the attackers saying shoot her. But the one who was instructed resisted but told me to quit politics. They stepped on me with kicks,” said Ms Kanyi in a low voice.
END HER LIFE
She said had she not screamed and neighbours responded, she would not be alive saying the assailants were determined to end her life.
She reported the matter at Gachatha police post and recorded statement before seeking medical attention at Mathari Mission Hospital where they were treated and discharged.
“Within three minutes I had been terrorised enough. It was like a movie. I screamed and residents responded forcing the attackers to escape,” narrated Ms Kanyi.
It was the third incident but the most ugly. Initially her meetings in Kigwandi and Gichira were disrupted by young men belonging to her rivals’ camps.
She cried foul over harassment and intimidation saying she feels insecure, being the only woman in the crowded race of ten aspirants seeking to unseat Ndungu Gethenji.
Area Deputy County Commissioner Herman Shambi confirmed the incident and said she will be given security.
Mr Shambi also banned all night meetings in the area as a security measure.
He further asked Ms Kanyi to share out her meeting schedule for provision of security officers as he condemned the incident.
Woman Rep aspirant Mukami Wachira asked political parties to put up mechanisms of protecting women in politics and disqualify politicians causing violence.
“Women need security. It is not easy to compete against men who have huge financial muscles and are hiring their security. Violence and intimidation against women is outdated model of politics,” said Ms Wachira.
She further asked male candidates to keep off women politics saying those in Woman Rep race should be allowed to battle freely without interference.
“Some male candidates want to control even the Woman Rep politics. I have already decided to go it alone and work with anyone who will be elected on any seat. They should not interfere with our issues,” she said.
For Sheilla Githaiga, who is also the only woman in the County Senate race, has learnt harsh lessons and experiences including escaping death.
Ms Githaiga was mobbed by over 30 men armed with batons and machetes on Monday night in Bellview, Kieni West.
She narrated that she had wound up her daily campaigns and was on her way home when the 7pm incident occurred.
“I was trailed by two men riding on a motorbike for more than 30 minutes. Then suddenly a huge crowd emerged. They blocked the road with stones and tyres They smashed the rear window of my car after my husband pleaded with them to spare us,” recounted Ms Githaiga.
“I was full of fear because I did not know what would happen next. But they did not assault me and amazingly did not even demand money. They later allowed us to leave. They were drunk,” she added.
She reported the matter at Endarasha police station but was later referred to Mweiga police station where she recorded a statement.
“I will not weaken my resolve to vie for the seat but I will soldier on,” said Ms Githaiga saying the attack was pre-arranged.
She is contesting for Jubilee Party ticket alongside businessman Wambugu Nyamu, Daniel Wamahiu and Ephraim Maina.
Mr Newton Muraya is vying for the seat on a Maendeleo Chap Chap party ticket.
She alleged that the attack was pre-arranged adding that it is a scheme to push her out of the race through threats and bullying.
“Women candidates are targeted and intimidated. Government must guarantee female candidates their personal security. All this is happening because of party nominations which are like a General Election in this region,” added Ms Githaiga.
She further decried that her campaign materials across the County have been defaced and torn down by her rivals, saying it is a strategy to bring down her image.
She said two of her banners in Nyeri town were removed and given to street boys on Sunday night by a group of men belonging to one of her rivals’ camps.
Her husband Kibuka Githaiga, called for tolerance in politics as he urged the male candidates to stop working with goons to intimidate female colleagues.
“Women need space to campaign and paste their posters. We are a civilised society,” noted Mr Githaiga.
Mathira MP aspirant Cathy Irungu complained that her campaign materials — billboards worth Sh400,000 — erected along Marua-Sagana road have been destroyed by unknown people.
“I incurred a huge loss. Those who pulled down and destroyed my materials had been hired by my rival,” she said.
However, she said the country has moved from the era of campaigning using posters alone but politicians have adopted new strategies.
“I am using the strategy of meeting people at the ground because posters are becoming more crowded in town and you can hardly be seen,” Ms Irungu observed.
She said political parties ought to empower women through financing and nominating those who lose in the elections to the National Assembly.
Ms Irungu is running against three male politicians and one woman including the incumbent Peter Weru, Warutere Thinwa, Rigathi Gachagua and Wambura Maranga.
She also called for security saying violence will be rife ahead of the General Election if not tamed.
WOMEN NOT FIT
Aguthi Gaaki Ward MCA aspirant Caroline Wangai said her male rivals are capitalising on gender issues spreading notion that women should not be allowed in leadership.
She said last week more than 500 posters worth Sh13,000 were destroyed, to lower her image publicity.
The Maendeleo Chap Chap party candidate is the only female candidate in the crowded Ward Rep seat which has attracted over 20 aspirants.
“My agenda is to ensure devolution works in my area and that they get efficient services from the County Government through better representation, oversight and legislation,” said Ms Wangai.
County Commissioner, Oningoi Ole Sossio warned that politicians found inciting their supporters to cause chaos or disrupt rivals’ meetings risk disqualification.
Mr Sossio, speaking at a meeting in Kagumo College, asked politicians and their supporters to portray civility and decorum during and after nominations, saying they are ready to arrest and arraign in court those perpetrating political violence.
He said such acts would not be condoned.
He added that of late there have been instances where campaign posters and banners for various aspirants were being destroyed by their rivals, saying it was setting a bad precedent, which if not stemmed, was likely to become chaotic.