The only female contestant in the Kisii County gubernatorial race has dropped out at the eleventh hour citing intimidation and misogynistic attitude against her by a male competitor from her Nyaribari backyard.
Ms Rachel Otundo’s withdrawal now leaves the contest a men’s only affair, reinforcing the patriarchal beliefs that have for years disadvantaged women in the traditionally conservative Gusii community.
Ms Otundo has instead switched to the Kisii woman representative contest. She has been cleared to run for the seat. “I am now moving my supporters to the Kisii woman rep race. I urge all women and men of goodwill to support me and reject Machogu because he is a misogynist.”
Ms Otundo’s running mate, Mr Evans Onyancha, had bowed out. Announcing her decision, she lamented that she was intimidated into quitting by Nyaribari Masaba MP Ezekiel Machogu, who is running for the gubernatorial seat on the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket. Mr Machogu is a former provincial administrator.
“I single-handedly brought and popularised UDA in Kisii. Mr Machogu came and unfairly got the party’s ticket. I moved to the Progressive Party of Kenya, but this misogynist moved quickly and bought out my running mate,” she said.
“I was the only person who engaged in selling UDA ideology in Kisii before being hounded out by this rich man who poured a lot of money to buy his space in UDA and in the process denied me the party’s ticket. I moved to Progressive Party of Kenya where I continued gaining ground.”
Machogu denies claims
Contacted, however, Mr Machogu vehemently denied the allegations, stating that the said running mate had voluntarily stepped down after realising that he had failed to tender his resignation from his working position.
Mr Machogu said Mr Onyancha, whom he is alleged to have bought out, was his close relative and beyond that relationship, he had nothing to do with his political problems.
“There are certain things when you hear and investigate, you’re left to wonder. If you choose a running mate, how does anyone interfere with them?” he asked.
Mr Machogu said Mr Onyancha’s case is similar to that of Senator Irungu Kang’ata of Murang’a. He said that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) had Onyancha’s name in the media as one of the candidates who had been technically disqualified for not having resigned by February 2022.
The lawmaker said those claiming to have been “bought are not women for whom dowry can be paid”.
“Even women are not bought. We only pay dowry in the process of relationship building. Those folks complaining that I attempted to buy and bought one of them are not women I want to marry. If I want to marry a second wife, I know where to find one. But for now, I am satisfied with the one wife that I have,” stated Mr Machogu.
Hostility and profiling
A land valuer by training, Ms Otundo was emphatic that she had borne the brunt of hostility and profiling, which culminated in the alleged buying out of her running mate, specifically to expose her to have only one option—drop out and go back to her kitchen, where women in this community are expected to be confined.
Ms Otundo described Mr Machogu as the grand master of the scheme of buying out other candidates’ running mate, especially those from Nyaribari so that he would remain the only person from that clan in the gubernatorial fray.
Ms Otundo, who hails from the populous ‘Kamba Nane’ clan (eight sub-clans bound together) claimed that Mr Machogu, who comes from a smaller clan of Boguche in Nyaribari Masaba, had hounded her out of UDA and now succeeded in his scheme to buy out her running mate.
She argued that Mr Machogu was increasingly uncomfortable and worried by her popularity, and, worse, coming from a populous clan, she stood to expose him to a disadvantaged situation in the extremely cut-throat contest to take over the Kisii county leadership.
Ms Otundo alleged that Mr Machogu used “dubious tactics” to frustrate her candidature because of her gender.
At the same time, Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri came out very strongly to condemn what he termed as the culture of buying out running mates to weaken other gubernatorial contestants.
Prof Ongeri and his running mate, Engineer Josiah Maaga, alleged that in the week ending June 5, efforts had been made by a politician they did not name to “buy out” Mr Maaga so that he could fail to present his nomination papers to the IEBC, hence paralyse his candidacy.
But reacting to the complaint, Mr Machogu said Mr Maaga had contacted him sometime back and informed him about a meeting he had with his supporters at Pan Afrique Hotel where they had resolved that he contests Bomachoge Chache parliamentary seat. He said Mr Maaga was taken to UDA by nominated Senator Millicent Omanga and that at the time, he was contemplating running for Bomachoge Chache MP.
Mr Machogu claimed Mr Maaga later chickened out of the parliamentary race.
“He told me that he had reevaluated his position because he feared that he would be tormented by his opponents during campaigns over some personal issues. Beyond that, I do not know anything else,” said Mr Machogu.