Pressure was mounting Saturday on Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero to step aside as police continued an investigation into claims that he assaulted the county’s women’s representative Rachel Shebesh.
The governor appeared isolated after his coalition side, Cord, issued a statement saying the allegations “border on impropriety and breach of the coalition’s leadership code and our country’s constitution”.
But the chairman of the Cord secretariat management board David Musila maintained that the allegations should be investigated impartially by relevant agencies of the State and due process followed.
The coalition also said it had launched its own investigation into the incident.
“Cord remains steadfast in its commitment to the rule of law, justice and accountable leadership,” Mr Musila, said in a statement.
The Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (Kewopa) and the Coalition on Violence Against Women were the first to fire salvos, vowing to move to court to institute criminal proceedings against Dr Kidero should he defy their calls.
“We want to condemn in the strongest words possible the physical assault by Dr Kidero against Hon Shebesh Friday. We are calling on him to resign following his action or risk criminal proceedings that shall be instituted against him,” said Kewopa chairperson Cecily Mbarire, who is also the Runyenjes MP.
Ms Shebesh has accused Dr Kidero of slapping her when she led a group of striking Nairobi County workers to the governor’s office on Friday evening to help in pushing their demand for better pay.
“As we were insisting, Dr Kidero opened his door and asked ‘What is going on?’ He then slapped me. I was taken totally by surprise, and his security immediately started pushing me and others. We decided to leave,” the women representative reportedly told officers at Parliament police station, where she reported the alleged assault on Friday.
Dr Kidero has, however, denied assaulting her, saying that he was in his office and has no recollection of the event. The governor recorded a statement at Central Police Station on Friday where he claimed Ms Shebesh assaulted him.
In the meantime, the governor has released a press statement alleging he was assaulted “around his lower abdomen” during the commotion, something he found “embarrassing, disgusting and highly disrespectful.” Dr Kidero said the storming of his office was a premeditated act by those opposed to the reforms he had undertaken to clean up City Hall.
“I wish to regard what happened to me yesterday at City Hall as a despicable act of aggression on my personal integrity and that of the office of the governor,” he said. Dr Kidero urged Kenyans to let the police pursue the matter to its logical conclusion and avoid speculation about what actually happened during the confrontation.
But leaders from across the country have condemned the incident. Kirinyaga Women Representative Winnie Njuguna called on Mr Kidero to vacate office until investigations are concluded.“The governor could easily interfere with investigations. He should quit first,” Ms Njuguna said in Kirinyaga County.
Women representatives of Meru, Murang’a, Homa Bay and Tharaka Nithi counties also weighed in on the matter, demanding Dr Kidero’s resignation.
Homa Bay Women Representative Gladys Wanga said: “We cannot sit back and watch as a woman is harassed and intimidated. This has to come to an end”.
Tharaka Nithi’s Beatrice Nkatha said: “Women have to unite against violence. We have to say no to such demeaning behaviour.”
Mandera Women Representative Fathia Mahbub described as “unfortunate” the action by Dr Kidero. Her Nyeri counterpart Priscila Nyokabi called on all women leaders to rally behind Ms Shebesh as a way of denouncing violence against women.
“Statistics show that 45 per cent of women in Kenya experience either physical or sexual violence, and Dr Kidero’s actions yesterday are a strong pointer why these figures are taking long to reduce. I want to call on all women MPs to keep politics out of this issue and rally behind Hon Shebesh as a form of unity against violence,” she said.
At least 20 TNA members of the Nairobi County Assembly said they would institute an impeachment Motion against Dr Kidero when the House sittings resume on Tuesday.
“If former Deputy CJ Nancy Baraza was bundled out of office for just pinching somebody’s nose, he (Dr Kidero) should vacate office since slapping is a more serious offence,” they said in a statement read by Nominated member Rachel Kamweru.
However, Dr Kidero got backing from Mr Njoka Ndiritu of the Maendeleo ya Wanaume Organisation. “If at all he slapped her, the governor must have been provoked beyond limit. And you see this was also a demonstration of lack of respect,” he said.