Women and power

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women_power-999pxBy Jane Wachira

From the no-school-for-girls days, a woman’s place is in the kitchen; if you are a career woman, you cannot make a good mother, so stay at home and take care of the children. And now to the thrones of power: Parliament, government departments and even fortune 500 companies, the African woman has come a long way.

The struggle to have a higher status in society has not been easy. But just when they are getting settle at the top, it looks like someone is out to sabotage their efforts. It is as if women are changing a societal order that is not supposed to changed.

Decades ago, it would have been inconceivable to have women appointed or elected to national leadership positions, except maybe for monarchies or under some special circumstance.

Today, we can talk of Margaret Thatcher British Prime Minister (1979-1990), Benazir Bhutto, Pakistani Prime Minister, Angela Merkel, Germany Chancellor, Indira Gandhi, Indian Prime Minister (1980-1984), Kim Campbell, 19th Prime Minister of Canada, Han Myeong Sook, South Korea Prime Minister (2006-2007), Aminata Toure, Prime Minister Senegal, Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, first ever woman president in Africa (Liberia) and recently Nobel peace prize winner for non-violent fight for human rights, Joyce Banda, Malawi President (2013-2014), and Catherine Samba-Panza of the Central African Republic.

In Kenya’s case, I focus on women leaders trending for the wrong reasons, from corruption scandals to gross misconduct. Have they been rightly accused or are they victims of gender oppression?

Nancy Baraza, the country’s first ever Deputy Chief Justice and a member of Kenya’s first Supreme Court, was in office from 2011-2012 upon the promulgation of the Constitution 2010.

In 2008, she was a member of the Kenya Law Reform Commission, where she served as the vice chair. In early 2010, she was chairperson of the Media Council of Kenya’s Ethics and Complaints Commission. She is the former chairperson of the Kenyan Chapter of the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), a group known for its strong advocacy of democracy for women and children’s rights. She served in the Yash Pal Ghai-led Constitution of Kenya Review Commission, which produced the sp-called Bomas draft constitution, which was used as a reference for the newly passed constitution. She was appointed successfully as the deputy Chief Justice after a public interview.

So what happened during New Years’ eve in 2011? Baraza, according to investigations, was in an altercation with a mall security guard, one Rebecca Kerubo, when the DCJ walked past the security guards towards a pharmacy, not bothering with being screened as is required by the mall’s protocol.

A tribunal led by Reverend Samuel Kobia, and working with the Judicial Service Commission, was set up by former President Mwai Kibaki to investigate the matter. The tribunal found her guilty of the said assault. Applying for judicial review on the tribunal’s decision in civil suit “Nancy Makokha Baraza v. Judicial Service Commission & 9 others [2012] eKLR”, where she claimed constitutional rights, inter alia, Article 3,10,19,25,27,47,50 and 165 had been infringed, that the principles of natural justice had been ignored, and that the principles of proportionality, reasonableness and legitimate expectation had been disregarded, a three-judge bench upheld the tribunal’s ruling and dismissed her appeal.

Hers could be classified as an act of gross misconduct, granted, but what has happened to men in similar circumstances? Recall the “Kidero slap” scandal where the Nairobi governor was caught on camera slapping Nairobi Woman Representative Rachel Shebesh? After some social media brouhaha and apologies here and there, the matter was forgotten, swept under the carpet. Or does Chapter Six of the Constitution not apply to men?

gladys-shollei1Gladys Boss Shollei, the former chief registrar of the Judiciary, witnessed the swearing-in and oathing ceremony of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto in 2013. Later that year, on September 10, she was removed from office following allegations of incompetence, abuse of office, violation of the prescribed code of conduct for judicial officers, and violation of Chapter Six and Article 232 of the Constitution. Further allegations included financial mismanagement, impropriety in procurement, insubordination and gross misconduct.

At the Ethics and Anti Corruption Centre, she was questioned on four issues related to procurement malpractices that happened at the Judiciary during her tenure, i.e., the purchase of the Chief Justice’s house for Sh310 million, the lease and partitioning of Elgon Place for the Court of Appeal, the pre-fabricated Mavoko Law Courts and the renovation of the CJ’s parking lot kitchen. She held that all tenders had been done through approved procurement procedures. Following her sacking, she applied for judicial review at the industrial court in Petition no 39 of 2013, and an order for certiorari to quash the proceeding, and the order that led to her removal.

Judge Nduma Nderi found her dismissal from office unlawful and she was therefore eligible for compensation as she could not be reinstated to office – the exercise to appoint another CRJ was already in place. However, the Court of Appeal later quashed this decision and ruled that former registrar was lawfully sacked. To date, a civil action case regarding Shollei is still ongoing.

Anne Waiguru, appointed as cabinet secretary to the ministry of Devolution and Planning by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2013, has had her share of scandal – from the controversial sacking of Kiplimo Rugut as Director-General of the National Youth Service and the appointment of Nelson Githinji, to the current one Sh800 million of NYS money is missing. In 2014, following the controversial sacking of Rugut, there was uproar from the country’s political elite who wanted the CS to step aside, claiming that the sack was unprocedural.

While the whole country called for her dismissal, she went about her business undeterred. Presently, Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter is collecting signatures to support her impeachment, whereas Kirinyaga County Governor Joseph Ndathi wanted the legislators to “leave our daughter alone”.

Onto Marianne Kittany, Deputy President William Ruto’s chief of staff who is accused of abuse of office and misappropriation of Sh100 million, which she ostensibly used to try and have Waiguru impeached. She is further accused of spending a further Sh100 million on unnecessary office renovations. These allegations saw her get suspended from office.

Former Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Grace Kaindi, was recently removed from office by President Uhuru Kenyatta and appointed ambassador. Her place was taken by General Service Unit Commandant Joel Mboya Kitili in an acting capacity. Consequently Kaindi filed a legal challenge to overturn her removal by the President, claiming that in dismissing her, government had ignored the law. She submitted that the office was a constitutional one and that she was appointed through a competitive process by the National Police Service. She insisted that her five –year contract ends in 2018 and hence the purported transfer violates her terms of employment. The court first disagreed with her but subsequently declared her removal unlawful and improper.

In the fray as well is Monica Juma, who had been nominated for position of Secretary to the Cabinet – she is the Principal Secretary at the ministry of Interior. A well-learned woman, she has a PhD from Oxford University. MPs fought nail and tooth to see that