This week Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo responds to your questions.
1. Recently, you were involved in a social media fight with Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko. As a leader, do you think such exchanges are worth it? Geoffrey Oyoo, Management University of Africa
In politics, women are always expected to be ‘refined’ even when faced with ‘unrefined’ situations.
Michelle Obama is credited with saying, “When they go low, we go high”. But here in Kenya, they do not notice the difference when you go high.
Sometimes it requires that when they go low, you go into the pigsty with them then come out, shower and restore sanity.
Men must know we are willing to go the whole hog with them. He threw a sexual slur at me. I responded in kind, albeit with some suave and intelligence!
2. Don’t you think it is hypocritical on your part and other MPs to be talking of unsustainable wage bill yet go around and award yourselves huge allowances? What is your position regarding the house allowances for MPs? Joy Wavinya, Kitui
I am a servant of Suba people. When they tell me they do not want me to receive allowances, I will listen.
3. Several attempts have been made to pass legislation to entrench the two-thirds gender rule but they have failed. Probably it goes to show that something is manifestly wrong with the proposed legislation and I will point just two: One, the bill, if passed as it has often been drafted, means we would be going to elections not knowing how many MPs we will end up with, which is unheard-of in democracies like ours, besides being bad for planning. Two, the bill fails to address the question of what would happen if an elected woman MP (not county woman representative) vacates her seat either by way of death or petition after the nominations have been done. In case the vacant seat is won by a man, would Parliament be required to nominate another woman to bring back the balance? These are pertinent issues. What is your take? Maurice W. Ademba, Kilifi
Affirmative action has worked in many countries. Change never comes easy, and the bill has not failed because of the reasons you give but because people fear change, especially that will give women greater power.
That change will ultimately come. It came in Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, South Sudan and other areas. It will come to Kenya. Patience pays. We are patient.
4. Would you consider vying for a seat higher than that of an MP? Francis Njuguna, Kibichoi
The Bible says there is a time and a season for everything.
I await God’s perfect timing and leading, even as I serve Suba North and the country at large through my legislative work for now. In due season, you will get your answer.
5. Not many women made it in the last national elections and it was even harder for those running on smaller political parties. What is your take on this and what corrective measures would you propose? Francis Njuguna, Kibichoi
It is true the political terrain is exceptionally rugged for women. Many face violence, many get cultural hurdles and others win but are denied victory.
In the last elections, my bodyguard was killed and my house burnt. Some people with pre-medieval, antiquated and retrogressive mindsets still think some sociocultural issues such as childlessness or where you are married count in leadership.
This is why it is important to have affirmative action seats for women as a launching and toughening pad. In my case, you throw mud at me, you will receive sewage back.
6. Do you think there is a real chance of a woman being elected president in 2022? Raphael Obonyo, Nairobi
It is not impossible for a woman to be president of Kenya. Practically though, it is not likely in 2022. The way Kenyan politics is structured right now is not conducive for a woman candidature, though there are many capable women.
7. What reasonable steps are required to increase the number of women legislators? Raphael Obonyo, Nairobi
First, affirmative action can assist as it would guarantee more women get leadership seats.
Secondly, we can adopt a different system such as Proportional Representation system like Belgium, Sweden and South Africa where parties are represented in proportion to electoral support.
In such a case, people vote parties primarily. This way, many women are saved the rugged terrain of violence and intimidation.
Parties can also choose to include strong women in their strongholds even with our current system.
8. During the 11th Parliament, you stood out for your outstanding contribution towards the enactment of land laws to realise the aspirations of Chapter Five of the constitution. Thereafter, the Ministry of Land and the National Land Commission litigated against one another in court over their respective mandates. What is your take on the circus? Did Parliament fail in its mandate? How can we achieve the aspirations of the constitution in a sustainable manner? Komen Moris, Eldoret
I do not think Parliament failed in its mandate, but what happened shows the transitional challenges towards devolution.
Many people with centralist mind frames were bound to fight back and try to claw back on the gains of devolution. These challenges may still be felt for a while.
9. You have been reported saying that Building Bridges Initiative will give birth to a referendum which in the long run will bring national unity. How will this happen? According to you, what is manifestly wrong with Dr Ekuru Aukot’s Punguza Mizigo initiative? Jeff Chepkwony, Sigor — Chepalungu
The BBI is work in progress. I wait to give my views once the report is out.
On Punguza Mizigo, there is a lot that I can fault with the provisions. The overall idea of reducing the burden is good but the bill itself does not do that.
It effectively abolishes the position of MPs in the National Assembly as known today and creates women and male reps.
It does away with women representation at ward levels. It takes development further from people by doing away with current constituencies.
For instance in Homa Bay County, we will move from eight to just one constituency. It will effectively kill the principle of effective representation.
It has unrealistic proposals. There is no way a court can conclude complex corruption cases involving billions in 30 days.
10. The leadership of the current Members of the National Assembly cannot be compared to past parliaments of the 1990s and early 2000s. Members are not sensitive to issues affecting the electorate and all you people are interested in is what will get into your bank accounts at the end of the month. What happened to the good old parliament where intellectual and mature debates took place? Jeff Chepkwony, Sigor — Chepalungu
You said the same thing about those parliaments.
11. No sooner had the 2017 elections concluded than you and Homa Bay Woman Rep Gladys Wanga started going at each other hammer and tongs. Speculation is that both of you are eyeing the Homa Bay gubernatorial seat in 2022. Don’t you think it was too early for the two of you to start going at each other almost five years to the next general election? Could you confirm if you are indeed interested in the Homa Bay gubernatorial seat? Shem O. Aliwa, Homa Bay
We did not go against each other ‘hammer and tong’. We just had different political perspectives.
Suba people elected me to serve them. That is my utmost focus for now. I will declare what I’m interested in at the right time.
I can however, categorically, state what I will not be going for, MCA or woman rep.
For women reps, it is because it is an affirmative action seat meant to give women an opportunity to learn politics before getting into competitive politics against men.
We must give other women a chance to get in and learn politics and not fight with them over the same seats.
12. Going by your recent spat with Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, you declared that you were “happily a pig while in politics”, it would suggest that your political life is guided by the philosophy of an eye for an eye. Does this correctly describe your approach to politics? Brigid Nafula, Nairobi
One of my political philosophies is ‘no bullies please, we can hold our own’. I am allergic to bullies, especially who target women.
13. Your home county, Homa Bay, has high levels of corruption and mediocre development projects yet it seems area MPs, including yourself, are doing nothing about it. How then can you convince the residents of Homa Bay that you would be any different if we were to elect you our next governor? William Orondo, Homa Bay
I will respond if and when I choose to be governor. Meanwhile, I can boldly speak for Suba North. We are on course with our development agenda with our mantra ‘A heart for the people, a focus on development’.