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Kenya: Pre-election Commentaries, 2
July 24, 2017 (170724)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"As the election draws closer, Kenyans are reminded how sexist and patriarchal their
society has remained. Choosing to run is a particularly difficult decision for a
woman and her family. Campaigning is often marked by violence directed at women
candidates. ... The agitation for a greater political role for women led to
progressive legal frameworks. But historical prejudices have ensured that a bill that
would enshrine the law has twice failed to get the numbers in a male-dominated
House." - Beatrice Akala
While most commentary on the August 8 Kenyan general elections focus on the familiar
themes of the presidential contenders and the potential for violence in a close and
disputed outcome, as in 2007, the election will also be notable for what it reveals
about the impact of political "devolution" and the still contested role of women in
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains three short commentaries highlighting the
continued obstacles facing the participation of Kenyan women in politics, as well as
one focusing on the impact of "devolution" in expanding the levels of political
contestation to six: "a member of the county assembly (MCA), a women's
representative, an MP, a senator, a governor, and a president."
Another AfricaFocus sent out today (and available on the web
http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/ken1707a.php) contains two commentaries focused on
the election more generally, and one highlighting the devastating East African
drought, the inescapable background to the August 8 election despite the lack of
international attention to this massive humanitarian crisis.
For detailed news coverage, AfricaFocus suggests a custom google search of Kenya-based
web sites using the words "Kenya elections 2017 site:.ke" as well as two other
news sites aggregating content from different sources: http://allafrica.com/kenya and
The Kenyan Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is on-line,
with increased computer capacity and availability to check registration and other details, at
And there is an extensive analysis of the demographics of the expanded voter roll for
the current elections, from DataScience LTD, available at
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Kenya, visit
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++]
Election season offers a reminder that Kenya remains deeply sexist
By Beatrice Akala, Post Doctoral Research Fellow, University of Johannesburg
The Conversation, May 21, 2017
Kenyan folk stories celebrate women as strong, fierce heroines of the distant past.
Women in some communities in western and central Kenya are said to have enjoyed
considerable power directly or indirectly as chiefs, queens, queen mothers and
One of these communities even started off as being matrilineal. Women led and fought
fearlessly to extend their territory. Although this community has since become
patrilineal, its nine clans are still named after the daughters of its legendary
In more recent times, women endured the same hardships as their male counterparts in
the political struggle to free the country from Britain's colonial grip. They risked
life and limb to ensure armed freedom fighters got food. They were also an important
source of intelligence for the armed fighters as they came under less suspicion.
But, in the 50-odd years since independence, Kenya's women have had a rough time of
it in politics. The first post-independence parliament in 1963 did not have a single
woman representative. Only nine had contested for a seat in the 158-member house.
It wasn't until 1969 that the first woman was elected to parliament. In a chamber of
169 members, there were only two women one elected and one nominated. At the end of
1992, 30 years after independence, the count was just two women in a chamber of 198.
Kenya's progressive 2010 Constitution brought a sea of change in the last elections
held in 2013. Not only were there seats reserved for women, but more candidates than
ever threw their hats in the ring. The new parliament had a whopping 88 both elected
and nominated. More encouraging was the number willing to contest House at 449.
But the change went only so far. None of the 19 women candidates seeking senate and
gubernatorial positions were elected. Of the 1,450 elected to county assemblies there
were 88 women (or 6%). In Parliament, the increase in numbers amounted to 19%. All
were well below the constitutional minimum entitlement of at least a third.
Lazy, idlers and busy bodies
As the election draws closer, Kenyans are reminded how sexist and patriarchal their
society has remained. Choosing to run is a particularly difficult decision for a
woman and her family. Campaigning is often marked by violence directed at women
Women candidates in cross ethnic marriages are often easy targets. Some are taunted
to go seek elective seats where they were born. The naming and shaming of the single,
divorced and married as people who should be taking care of their husband is the
order of the day in campaign rallies.
The agitation for a greater political role for women led to progressive legal
frameworks. But historical prejudices have ensured that a bill that would enshrine
the law has twice failed to get the numbers in a male-dominated House.
The Affirmative Action Bill is better known as the two thirds gender rule. Under an
article of the constitution Parliament is required to pass laws to ensure that no
gender holds more than two thirds of elective posts and public appointments.
Sadly, the 2013 Parliament has struggled to give to life the requirements of this
rule. The failure further demonstrates the complexities of negotiating and upholding
democratic principles, people's wishes and constitutional imperatives.
Those against the implementation of the rule argue that women should not be handed
free positions. They ought to go to the people and campaign for support. They have
been branded as being lazy, idlers and busy bodies who don't deserve to be in
In addition, it has been argued that increasing women representation in parliament
will hurt the economy due to the ballooning budget. One reads negativity and
selfishness in the reasons being advanced. Those who hold leadership positions don't
want to let go.
Political parties can do more
Fundamentally excluding women from leadership means that the aspirations of half of
the population are ignored. It should therefore be appreciated that if the playing
ground was level, there would be no need to include the two thirds gender rule in the
What will it take to bring the rule to life? Political parties can do more by making
their leadership structures fair and inclusive. Their nominations should not be
gender skewed and women who express interest should be given a fair chance to
compete. And they could do more to shield women from acts of violence and thuggery.
Women are known to opt out of politics because of fear of violence because the impact
on them goes beyond the physical harm. When they do, they lose their right to
participate in politics as equal partners. And the country loses the opportunity to
experience their aspirations, skills and the ability to lead and articulate the needs
and voices of their people.
Having more women in leadership positions will also motivate young girls to strive
for leadership positions when they grow up. The younger generation will grow
confident that society is fair and doesn't impose limitations on the basis of gender.
"I am a leader, but I was forced to quit"
Human Rights Watch, July 20, 2017
In a country where women are routinely denied the ability to own and control their
own finances, running for political office in Kenya is tough. And money isn't a
guarantee a woman candidate will be able to win over a patriarchal society. At the
start of a painful drought in Kenya last year, Rosemary (name changed to protect her
privacy), a young community organizer, decided to run for Member of the County
Assembly (MCA). Human Rights Watch spoke to her in Mombasa about the challenges she
faced as a young, unmarried woman, and about the threats and resource constraints
that forced her to end her campaign. Rosemary's account is edited for clarity:
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission
I am a leader. I was the head girl in primary school and I was the music captain. In
secondary school, I was games captain. I was the chairlady in Christian union group.
I am also bright I was number one in class. Now, I help school dropouts, when girls
get pregnant I help them keep their partners accountable. I also work with 90 young
mothers and do advocacy to help girls protect themselves from underage pregnancy.
Our area is inland. We only have small trees and it's very dry and dusty. People are
living in poverty, farming and cutting trees for charcoal which makes it hotter.
Last year, we had a bad drought. People had no water. I have my own tap on my
compound so I would fill jerry cans and give water to others. I would wait for a car
heading to areas without water and then I would send it along with some water. It was
a lot of work.
Eventually, I called the county government, asking them to provide water for the
people. The County Commissioner wouldn't speak to me. He asked: "Who are you?" and I
said, "I am Rosemary, a community activist." He wouldn't talk to me. He said that the
local MCA needed to call him and that I had no right to call him directly, then he
But I wouldn't give up. I kept calling borrowing other people's phones until
eventually he gave up and sent us a tanker of water.
That was when I decided to run for office. I launched my manifesto in April 2016. The
priorities in my manifesto were water, education, health and participation for all.
People really liked the idea of participation. I promised that I would invite
everyone to community meetings so that everyone would have a say. Over 1,500 people
came to my first rally even though I had only planned on 200. We ran out of food. I
paid for the rally myself.
You can't campaign without money. Even a grassroots campaign is expensive.
At the end of meetings, I would say goodbye, and the people would ask, "How are you
leaving us? "They mean that I should give them a "sitting allowance" money for
coming to the meeting. Without that, they say: "just go, your words are empty."
Transport by boda boda (motorcycle taxi) is 1,000 KES (USD 10) for the day. Then for
each meeting you have to leave 4,000 or 5,000 KES (USD 40 to 50) minimum. Even if I
use 10,000 KES (USD 100) a week would use up my money fast. I began to wonder how I
would manage my life after the election, especially if I didn't win.
Money is especially a big problem for women candidates. We have no networks, no big
business. There were three women in the race when we started only one is still
running she is not campaigning because she has no money. She is just registered and
hoping for miracle. One woman candidate was running against the incumbent in the
primaries, but she could not get money to transport her supporters. She lost in the
primaries because she couldn't get enough of her supporters to the polling station.
There was a bus all the candidates in the primary were supposed to share, but they
would ask everyone who they were voting for before allowing them on the bus. If you
said you were going to vote for her, they would kick you off the bus. If you said you
were going to vote for the incumbent, they allowed you on and gave you 200 KES (USD
Security is also a problem for example as a woman I don't want to walk around at
night. I got threats on the phone and on my Facebook account. "OK, Rosemary, drop
this thing or else you know who we are," they said, and "watch out for your life."
They also threatened me because I am a single woman with a baby. One said: "Go and
get married and then come and ask for votes." I reported to the police but they did
nothing. You have to pay them to investigate in my town.
One day, someone dug up the waterpipe to my house, cutting off our water. I thought
to myself: I don't have to lose my life because I love my community. I started to
think I could still help the community without winning an election.
When my boyfriend realized I was serious about politics, he dumped me. That was a big
blow for me, I lost him and my money, I was emotionally down. That is when I decided
Still, in 2022, whether I am married or not, I will run again. I am going to start a
business and get money to run; friends will support me. I have everything to be a
Kenyans see gains in gender equality, but support for women's
empowerment still uneven, Afrobarometer survey finds
Afrobarometer News release
Institute of Development Studies, University of Nairobi, Kenya
8 March 2017
http://www.afrobarometer.org Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/y9rwzytb (press
[Excerpts. For full press release and presentation with figures, see links above]
A majority of Kenyans say the country has made progress toward gender equality, but
below-average support among men and lagging political engagement among women point
toward remaining challenges, according to new Afrobarometer findings released on
International Women's Day.
Popular perceptions that girls and women have a fair chance at education and jobs,
that gender violence is never justifiable, and that women should be accorded a fair
shot at being elected are in line with perceived progress toward gender equality, the
new survey data show.
But much work remains to be done among men, who trail significantly on most of these
indicators. Moreover, key pillars of women's progress continue to require
strengthening, including an equal chance to own and inherit land and women's
political engagement. The findings are being released on International Women's Day,
during a period of tense political competition pitting female candidates against
their male counterparts in August general elections. The release also comes at a time
when the country is beginning to assess the effects of its new gender empowerment
laws, including equal rights for men and women to inherit land and other property.
- A majority (56%) of Kenyans say that women's equality has improved in recent years.
The best-educated women and men are twice as likely as their uneducated compatriots
to see progress on gender equality (Figure 1).
- About one in seven women (15%) say they personally suffered discrimination or
harassment based on gender in the past year.
- More than three-fourths (78%) of Kenyans say wife-beating is "never" justifiable.
- More than six in 10 Kenyans (63%) do not agree that men should be given priority in
hiring if jobs are scarce.
- Nine out of 10 Kenyans say that girls now have the same educational opportunities
as boys, but perceptions of gender equality drop to seven out of 10 with regard to
earning an income and less than six out of 10 with regard to the right to own or
inherit land (Figure 2).
- While 57% say women currently have equal rights to own and inherit land, more (64%)
say they should have those rights. Men are almost twice as likely as women to reject
equal rights for women when it comes to owning and inheriting land (39% vs. 21%).
- About two-thirds of Kenyan women (63%) and men (68%) say the government has
performed well in promoting opportunities and equality for women.
- Three-fourths (73%) of Kenyans say women should have the same chance as men of
being elected to political office (Figure 3). But men (66%) are less likely than
women (81%) to hold this view. Support for women's political leadership has remained
steady since 2011.
- Women are significantly less likely than men to discuss politics, to contact
political leaders, to join others to raise an issue, and to attend community
- More than half (54%) of Kenyans say they fear political violence and intimidation
"somewhat" or "a lot." Women and men are equally likely to express this fear.
Afrobarometer is a pan-African, non-partisan research network that conducts public
attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues in
Africa. Six rounds of surveys were conducted in up to 37 African countries between
1999 and 2016, and Round 7 surveys (2016/2017) are currently underway. Afrobarometer
conducts face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent's choice with
nationally representative samples.
The Afrobarometer team in Kenya, led by the Institute for Development Studies at the
University of Nairobi, interviewed 1,599 adult Kenyans in September-October 2016. A
sample of this size yields country-level results with a margin of error of +/-3% at a
95% confidence level. Previous surveys have been conducted in Kenya in 2003, 2005,
2008, 2011, and 2014.
Kenya's 2017 elections will be like none before. Here's why.
By Nanjala Nyabola
African Arguments, July 10, 2017
http://africanarguments.org Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/yamra4mw
[Nanjala Nyabola is a Kenyan writer, humanitarian advocate and political analyst,
currently based in Nairobi, Kenya. Follow her on twitter at @Nanjala1]
Devolution has demystified local power and emboldened voters to assert themselves,
leading to shocks all the way up the political pyramid.
Kenya's 2017 elections are set to be the country's most interesting yet. The
political landscape has shifted, and whatever else these elections turn out to be
violent, peaceful, confusing - they are going to a different kettle of fish to
The most obvious reason for this is devolution. After the 2010 constitution was
passed, Kenya restructured its political and legislative units, breaking 8 massive
provinces into 47 counties made up of various wards. The national legislature was
broken into two branches, establishing the roles of senator and governor. And the
position of women's representatives was created in each county to help achieve the
new constitution's gender quotas.
These changes also affected how elections work. In 2007, Kenyans voted at three
levels: for a councillor, a member of parliament (MP), and a president. On 8 August
2017, the electorate will vote at six: a member of the county assembly (MCA), a
women's representative, an MP, a senator, a governor, and a president.
This was also the case in 2013, but since then, it has become much clearer how the
different levels of government operate in relation to one another. This means that
some positions have become far more attractive and therefore competitive. And this
increased contestation at the local level has undermined some of the typical tropes
of Kenyan politics such as tribalism and regionalism. Things have changed.
Kenya's political pyramid
One can think of Kenya's system of political operatives as operating in a pyramid
formation. At the bottom are local elders. One step up are county assembly members,
followed by members of parliament, senators, and county governors. Above them are the
ethnic kingpins. These are powerful individuals that come together to at the highest
level to form national political alliances or coalitions that then contest the
elections. In the case of 2017, we have President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President
William Ruto on one side as the incumbents, with Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and
others on the opposing side.
Typically, the role of local elders at the bottom rung has been to marshal voters to
back the right kingpin at the top. Much of campaign spending goes towards cementing
this local loyalty. Although politicians themselves sometimes hand out cash at
rallies, the really important network has been low-level leaders giving out goodies
in less intense environments. It's the chief calling a village meeting and
distributing bags of maize flour, or the women's group leader dishing out t-shirts at
the chama meeting.
In prior elections, knowing which way local leaders were leaning gave a good
indication of how the overall vote in a specific region would go. For politicians,
spending enough money on these low-level actors could usually guarantee a positive
return at the ballot box.
Dismantling the pyramid
Not anymore it seems. Devolution has made local politics much more intimately
connected with voters' day-to-day lives. Power has become demystified, and this has
inspired more people to challenge local leadership when it has been deemed to fail. A
record 14,525 candidates are running for office in 2017, and low-level chiefs and
elders can no longer guarantee voters' support for a particular party through the
In 2013, it was enough for a candidate who wanted to be elected to buy a nomination
certificate from their party and then hand out money at a rally, safe in the
knowledge that their "person on the ground" would distribute campaign goodies to
people to secure their votes. But with a more discerning electorate who, through
devolution, more closely see how local power works, or doesn't, these tactics are no
longer as effective.
This can also be seen in the way Kenyan voters have been rejecting the notion of
"six-piece voting". This was a strategy employed by national politicians in 2013
whereby they encouraged supporters to vote for the same party across all six levels
of government. This was most beneficial to those candidates in the middle levels of
the pyramid. Rather than establishing independent political identities, candidates
for MCAs, MPs and senators could just provide money downwards to foster low-level
loyalty for the party, while trading off the popularity of the national-level
politicians above them.
When Odinga and Kenyatta have proposed six-piece voting in 2017, however, they have
been heckled and booed at their own rallies. People don't want to just vote blindly
for the same party in all the boxes; they want more say in what happens at the
We saw these new dynamics play out in the party primaries this April. Despite
significant attempts at mobilisation, voters rejected incumbent MCAs, MPs and even
governors who they believe have failed to deliver. Several key allies of national
politicians failed to win their party's nomination.
Many of these figures are now running instead as independents, meaning that many
ethnic groups have two or more powerful figures contesting key constituencies. This
divides these ethnic kingdoms and presents a dilemma for political parties. On one
hand, they need to appease loyalists by putting the force of the party behind each of
their candidates; on the other, they need to court voters that support those popular
independents that have left the party.
To date, leaders have responded to this conundrum by inviting some independent
hopefuls to participate in party events, but this has led to public, and sometimes
violent, clashes between supporters of the different candidates.
A new politics?
In 2017, voters are not just rejecting six-piece voting and exercising their
judgements over local candidates beyond party loyalty. They are also being vocal and
visible about it.
This is the first time in recent memory that we're seeing national political figures
appear uncertain before their own supporters during their own rallies. The sight of
Kenyatta, a sitting president, being heckled not once, but fairly consistently
during the election period - is novel. That people at a Odinga rally would shout
anything that wasn't a synonym for ndio baba ("yes father") is unprecedented.
Of course, more things have changed in Kenyan politics since 2013 than those examined
here. But these changes, amongst others, have thrown a significant measure of
unpredictability into the landscape. Political punditry in Kenya has always been
fixated on the ethnic question, but this time around, it's not going to be that
simple. Ethnic loyalty is still important, but it is no longer absolute. Voters have
changed, politicians are adapting, and everything is getting a lot more interesting.
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