26 February 2013

Kenya: Coercion of Female Politicians Worrying - NCIC

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has expressed concern over harassment and intimidation of women candidates, as the anticipated March 4 election draws near.

NCIC commissioner Fatma Mohammed told journalists on Tuesday that the violent incidents deterred women from seeking the elective posts, even though the Constitution called for equity and gender balance.

She particularly cited the Kandara incident where a woman candidate's name was printed on condoms to discourage her from vying.

"There was the issue of the lady in Kajiado who was cursed by the elders after winning the nominations and we even have the issue of former nominated MP Sophia Abdi being asked to vie for the women representative seat so that a man can become the Member of National Assembly," she noted.

Mohammed explained that Abdi was the only woman battling it out with men for a seat in the National Assembly in the north eastern region.

She noted that clan issues had also been brought up to cow her into submission with her opponents saying that the Somali culture prohibited women from leading their clans.

"Sophia is the only woman vying for Member of the National Assembly out of about 18 constituencies and she is being hit hard. They have even made up songs to intimidate her," she said.

Allegations of harassment and intimidation against Othaya National Assembly Candidate, Mary Wambui, also came up.

"Gender issues are not being addressed well and we need to put our hands together to address them," Mohammed said.

She at the same time took issue with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for not addressing these incidents as they crop up.

She maintained that it was crucial to protect women and stop such electoral offences to honour the principles envisaged in the Constitution.

"Those are election related offenses and we would expect the IEBC to take action because even though they are not physical acts of violence, they are psychological," she said.

"They hinder women from proceeding because no woman wants to experience such things," she added.

Police have already indicated that they will pay special attention to women candidates to ensure they were not harassed or intimidated by their opponents.

The NCIC however noted that hate speech had gone down significantly adding that any woman who was harassed before, during or after the elections should report such incidents to the UWIANO platform for peace on the toll free number 108.

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