Kenya 2022 election: Ruto woos women voters to counter Raila’s running mate

By Victor Abuso
Posted on Tuesday, 14 June 2022 14:56, updated on Tuesday, 28 June 2022 11:18

Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto of United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and his running-mate Rigathi Gachagua present their candidacy, for the forthcoming presidential race, to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in Nairobi, Kenya, 4 June 2022. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi

Kenya’s main presidential contenders, William Ruto and Raila Odinga, are each scrambling to get a majority of the votes from women during the 9 August polls, with a raft of promises, as campaigns intensify.

For weeks now, Ruto has been facing an uphill task in his bid to win this important voting block, after Raila, his main challenger, picked Martha Karua as his running mate.

Out of the four presidential candidates, it is only Ruto who has settled on a man, Rigathi Gachagua, as his running mate.

What is he promising Kenya’s women

To counter his main rival, Ruto organised a women’s conference in Nairobi on June 10 to sign a women’s charter detailing policy interventions that his government will put in place if he wins the presidency.

The promises include:

  • To allocate half of his cabinet to women;
  • To distribute free sanitary towels;
  • To provide access to better healthcare for all women;
  • And to end female genital mutilation.

Who can you trust?

However, Ruto’s promises have elicited criticism from women leaders in Raila’s political outfit, Azimio la Umoja. They accuse the deputy president of having always sidelined women in the past and say he cannot be trusted.

Kitui County governor Charity Ngilu, who is a veteran women’s rights activist, scoffed at Ruto’s promises. “Kenyan women can only get promises while men hold all the power,” she said on Twitter.

Hilda Ajema, a Ruto supporter who attended the women’s conference, says she believes that if the deputy president wins in August, women’s issues will be properly treated. “I believe Ruto, he is a man of action, women also want to be at the leadership table.”

However, Valary Amwayi, a Raila supporter, tells The Africa Report that Ruto is copying the former prime minister after he missed an opportunity to settle on a woman as his running mate.

“He [Ruto] does not have women’s issues at heart, he can’t match my candidate,” she says.

Poll position

Ruto’s attempts to woo women comes at a time when the latest opinion polls placed Raila in the lead with 42% against Ruto’s 38%. The survey from InfoTrak was conducted between 23-27 May, but Ruto’s allies have dismissed the figures, terming them fabrications.

Analysts say Raila is gaining popularity due to his decision to settle on a woman as his running mate, and this might have pushed Ruto to come up with a formula to counter him, less than two months to the polls.

Ruto came for women too late, he has to work so hard to win their votes.

Wycliffe Odera, a Kisumu-based political analyst, however says Ruto’s plans for women have come too late and might work against him because he seems to be reacting to the Karua factor.

“Ruto came for women too late, he has to work [very] hard to win their votes,” he says.

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