10 January 2019

Kenya: Beyond Partisan Rift - Women Leaders Aim to Heal Political Divide

In the run-up to the 2017 General Election and some months after, there were two women groups in both sides of the camps: The 'resist' gang backing opposition leader Raila Odinga, and the 'red beret brigade' backing President Uhuru Kenyatta.

On Thursday, the two camps held a joint press conference and the room was full of warm embraces and not clenched-fists raised high and red berets.

The women leaders unveiled, 'Embrace Women Building Bridges Kenya'-- a bi-partisan approach that they said will help solve Kenya's divisive politics.

While Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga, Kisumu's Roza Buyu and Mombasa's Mishi Mboko had in the past led the National Resistance Movement, they on Thursday embraced with Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, Nominated MP Cecily Mbarire, Public Service Chief Administrative Secretary Rachel Shebesh, and former Nairobi County Speaker Beatrice Elachi - their tough opponents, now turned close political allies.

In a statement, the leaders said they were united by the March 9 handshake between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.

"We embrace the peace and stability and the sense of hope among our people that have come with the handshake after prolonged period of instability and hopelessness," Ms Waiguru said in a statement on behalf of the leaders.

On development, the leaders said they were in support of a bid by the President to extend development to all regions in Kenya - a chide against Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and his Bahati counterpart Kimani Ngunjiri, who have accused the president of neglecting the regions.

"We fully stand with our two leaders, President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga and the trajectory they have put the country on. It is the only path to a secure, prosperous and stable future. Any other path is one to darkness and doom," they said.

They also took a swipe at those they said had started very early campaigns, and people they said were out to wreck the truce between the two leaders.

"We reject in totality, the politics of blackmail, intimidation, threats and bloodshed. We have been there before. We as women are never going there again," they said.

Murang'a Woman Representative Sabina Chege: "To all the leaders, we are telling them today: We are watching you. We are not going to allow anyone to lead us down a path of destruction. Not again!"

Ms Wanga said the union will soon have a national convention in Nairobi to cement the new relationship.

"We are going to use that convention to present our views as women to the handshake team--The Building Bridges to Unity Taskforce, before we start going round the country," Ms Wanga said.

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