A wave of confusion has hit the Kericho County political scene after Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter publicly asked his wife Winnie to withdraw her candidature for the Kericho Woman Representative seat in this year’s General Election.
The pronouncement by Mr Keter was a relief for those who felt that Winnie’s decision to contest the seat was an effort by the influential minister to maintain his grip on South Rift politics.
But it was also a slap on the face of thousands of women and supporters in Kericho County who felt that Mrs Keter – who heads the influential Social Economic Empowerment Women Organisation– would offer new solutions to problems facing them, and were betting on her to win the election.
Mr Keter asked the residents to understand his decision not to support his wife’s ambition because it had invoked unnecessary political tension in the county, adding that the family had reached an agreement to have her shelve her aspiration for now.
“After discussing this issue as a family, we have decided that her candidature was creating unease in some quarters, therefore she should shelve her political ambitions. Please look for another candidate to support in the election,” Mr Keter said at Sosiot Stadium in Belgut Constituency during the sixth Seewo AGM.
He said he notified President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto and they accepted it.
“Please understand and accept my family decision too because after all Winnie and I are committed to working for the local community through my job at the Energy docket and Winnie’s position as the patron of Seewo,” he added.
A disheartened Mrs Keter later took to social media to urge her supporters to respect their decision and not to despair.
“I want to thank you for your unwavering support. It is only God who will understand our pain and agony, but I want to urge you to stand strong and let us not kill the fire in us,” she wrote.
But Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki, who was the chief guest, criticised the withdrawal.
She said women who want to seek political positions should be supported, not discouraged or pulled down.
“Women should not be harassed for offering themselves to join politics. Let women be set free because that is what the Constitution says. My dear Energy Cabinet Secretary colleague you have disturbed the bees,” Ms Kariuki said.
The announcement by Mr Keter was received by the more than 2,500 women with bitterness.
They knelt down begging the CS to reconsider but he walked away.
It was a huge setback for Mrs Keter who had already printed campaign posters, set up a campaign team and branded vehicles for the campaign, in which she had emerged as a tough competitor owing to Seewo’s huge following.