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Nyiva Mwendwa: I have no apology for loving myself



The vivid coral lipstick she wears is part of her signature look.

Winnie Nyiva Mwendwa never leaves her house without a smudge of redness on her lips and the arc of her eyebrows drawn to perfection.At 76, a lot of things about her have changed.

She has retired after 43 years of being in active politics and spends time with her grandchildren in her Nairobi and Kitui homes. Age has slowed the agility on her feet but she still wears heels. Her sense of style that she cultivated when she was studying Home Economics at Manchester University remains. “One thing I will never get tired of is taking care of myself,” she says, adjusting her neatly pressed suit tailored in Bangkok.

A tinge of her expensive perfume lingers in the room as she runs her fingers through her weave.

Tired of being oppressed

Her obsession with looks and love for beauty products landed her in trouble when she led a delegation of 450 women to the Beijing World Conference of Women in 1995.

She was the minister of Culture and Social Services and an explosion of voices from women tired of being oppressed was echoing across the globe.

The Beijing meeting was where they would strategise and take over what they had been denied for long — women power.

They left in fanfare, dangling a promise of liberation from a culture that demeaned women. The wind of change was blowing, and Nyiva was anchoring it. But back at home, things crumbled when it was reported that she had flown her hairdresser to Beijing.

“Everyone was talking about how I went with a hairdresser. I had a group of women drawn from different sectors. From elites to illiterates.

It is no surprise that a hairdresser was in my team,” she says, contradicting the much quoted phrase at the time where she said she needed to take care of her appearance as a minister; because image is everything.

Then came reports that lesbianism was discussed at the gathering with allegations that some members of the delegation had been lured. Kenyans were livid.

Preachers shivered on pulpits yelling to God to descend and the former Cabinet minister to resign.“A lot of lies were said about our visit to Beijing. Sadly, there are people who believed them,” she says.

Beth Mugo who was advocating the economic rights of women and also went to Beijing laughs when she recalls the criticism they faced when they returned home.

“It was said we were being coached to control men and become tough headed. Nyiva was put in a tight spot,” she says.

Nyiva believes the Beijing conference sparked a conversation many women wanted to have, but were too scared because of the narrative they had been fed. They were told they did not matter, and they believed it. The conference instilled in them the desire to question things.

“Most employed women were not even being paid house allowance because they were expected to be housed by their husbands. Nobody was asking about women who did not have husbands,” says Nyiva.

Upon returning from Beijing, she claims former President Moi asked: “What do women want?” Her answer was simple: “Women want to be heard!”She says she was tired of abuses about her womanhood. Anytime she vied for a political seat, she was reminded that she was not capable to lead. “Do you also want to wear trousers like men? Do you want to pee while standing?” she was asked whenever she took to the dais to address campaign rallies.

Nyiva vowed never to wear trousers. She wanted to prove that a woman can engage in politics in stilettos and skirts.

Dr Naomi Shaban who watched the former Cabinet minister’s political life blossom says she never imagined the murk she would have to walk through when her time came.

“For us women, they go low. They threatened me with rape, insulted me for being a single parent, and kept saying they will throw my child in the toilet,” says Shaban.

Nyiva and her late husband Kitili Maluki Mwendwa, the first African Chief Justice, were involved in politics and are said to have made more money by relating with former Uganda President Milton Obote.

Nyiva admits that she still interacts with former Ugandan First Lady Miria Obote. “They were my son’s godparents and our friendship dates from before Obote became president,” she says.The friendship dates back to 1950s when Obote and Kitili were students at Makerere University.

They hosted Obote’s family during war in Uganda. “Obote and my family were friends, but there was no money involved. We never made any investments together,” she says.

When Kitili died in a road accident in 1985, Nyivasays the shock almost killed her. “I was in Switzerland with Christine Kenyatta, and Mama Ngina called to deliver the news. It was the worst time of my life,” she says.

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Fidel Odinga’s widow, Lwam Bekelle reveals heated communication with Ida



Fidel Odinga’s widow, Lwam Bekelle, has put his mother-in-law on blast.

In court papers, Lwam claims that Ida has been spreading falsehoods about her.

In their affidavits, Ida and Winnie accuse Bekelle of taking off from her matrimonial home in Karen soon after Fidel was laid to rest and cutting all contact with the family.

They also say Bekelle kept off as the Odinga’s pushed to get to the bottom of what could have killed Fidel.

Bekelle accuses her mother-in-law of “unjustifiably and continuously making false, defamatory and/or unkind remarks about her family friends and herself.”

“I believe that the statement she recorded with the DCI following the death of Fidel Castro Odhiambo Odinga informs the 1st objector’s [Ida’s] averments and is the genesis of our differences,” Bekelle said.

However, in their affidavit, Ida and Winnie state that they are worried that Fidel’s son, Allay, may not be adequately provided for.

They claim Bekelle had removed him from school and kept him at home while also hiding him from the Odinga family.

“The objectors are further worried that having been the only child between the petitioner and the deceased, he is the only living memory of her son and will be disadvantaged if the petitioner continues to block them from his life,” Ida through Owiti, Otieno and Ragot advocates claims.

fidel odingaHowever, Bekelle blasts Ida for contradicting herself by claiming Fidel had other kids yet in the same document, she acknowledges that it is only her son that Fidel had sired during his lifetime.

“In paragraph 13 and 14 of the objectors’ answer to the petition for a grant, they averred that my son Allay Raila Odinga was the deceased’s only descendant and he is the only living memory of the deceased. This averment is in itself contradictory to the objectors’ earlier assertion that the deceased sired other children in a different relationship,” she responded.

The widow also claims the Odinga family is not supporting her son and disputes claims he has dropped from school.

By Mpasho

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Uhuru’s big love for the old



Kenyans, especially the youth, have expressed displeasure with the appointment of former Othaya MP Mary Wambui to head the National Authority Employment Authority.

Ms Wambui, the woman who thrust herself into the limelight after claiming she was President Mwai Kibaki’s wife, was handed the big job by Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani.

But this is not the first time President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration is appointing retirees and perceived ‘old people’ to take charge of critical state agencies.

On Monday, Mr Kenyatta appointed Jeremiah Matagaro to the public service, raising questions about Jubilee administration’s knack for retired persons at the expense of youths in State appointments.

Mr Matagaro will chair the State Corporations Advisory Committee for a three-year period, an appointment many consider as a slap in the face to the youth.

Cyrus Gituai, who served as Internal Security PS in the first Kibaki administration, also makes a comeback to the public service. Mr Gituai has also served as a district commissioner.

But the return of the old guard in Kenyatta’s administration is hardly surprising as the trend has been there for all to see.

Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua is 68, well over the mandatory retirement age of 60.

The same goes for former Vice President Moody Awori, the man well into his 90s, chairs the Sports, Arts and Social Development Fund.

President Kenyatta also picked Stephen Karogo to chair the Public Service Commission, even though at the point of his nomination, he was slightly over 60 years.

MPs vetting him for the position questioned his ability to adequately serve given that he has hit the mandatory retirement age of 60 years for the Civil Service.

“Do not focus on my age, rather at the wealth of experience I bring on the table in this new role,” he told the National Assembly Committee on Administration and National Security.

Retired General of the Kenya Defence Forces Julius Karangi chairs the NSSF Board after his retirement from the military, while 72-year-old Francis Muthaura is in charge at Kenya Revenue Authority.

Just last week, the National Assembly approved Esther Murugi to sit in the National Lands Commission, even though she is 66.

Back to Mr Matagaro, he is not exactly young. He was the police spokesman during the troubled times of agitation for political pluralism in 1990 to 1993.

He would later rise to become North Eastern provincial police commander in the mid 1990s.

When President Mwai Kibaki took over, he appointed him PS in the Ministry of Justice under Kiraitu Murungi before he was controversially appointed to the Electoral Commission of Kenya in total defiance of the 1997 Inter Political Parties agreements.

Mr Matagaro was among ECK commissioners who were sent packing after a probe by an international commission established that they had bungled the presidential election.

In a bid to stop recycling and re-appointment of senior citizens to the public service, Starehe MP Charles Njagua has filed a motion in the National Assembly.

The youthful city MP is seeking to reduce the retirement age to 50 from the current 60.

He says his motion will help address the high unemployment rate among the youth.

“Noting the mandatory retirement age for public servants is set at 60 years, this House urges the government to review mandatory retirement age in public service from current 60 to 50 years,” reads the motion.

Documents presented to parliament by the Public Service Commission (PSC) detailing the breakdown of civil servants by age cluster revealed that at least 11,879 civil servants were aged between 51 and 60 years.

A further 12,057 civil servants were aged between 56 and 60 years, while there were about 399 civil servants who had attained the age of 60 years or above.


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Outrage over hiring of Mary Wambui



Hours after the government announced several appointments to various positions in State agencies late on Monday, Kenyans have taken to social media to express their displeasure with some of those picked for the posts.

In a special Gazette Notice dated October 14, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced he had appointed eight people to the State Corporations Advisory Committee, while the Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani announced his pick for the chairperson for the National Employment Authority (NEA).

It is CS Yatani’s choice that has outraged Kenyans, who wondered whether the appointment of former Othaya member of Parliament Mary Wambui was done on merit.

Kenyans including political leaders, on social media, claimed Ms Wambui is out of touch with the realities of young unemployed graduates in the country.

They have also questioned the former lawmaker’s capacity to deliver on her new mandate.

Dismissing the appointment, ruling Jubilee party’s nominated Senator Millicent Omanga described it as a sad day and a spat on the face of Kenyan youth.

Senator Omanga expressed doubts that Ms Wambui possesses the ability “to craft strategies and policy formulations” to eradicate youth unemployment in the country.

“Does Wambui have the remotest idea what it feels like to hold a degree certificate yet you can’t find a job with it?” Ms Omanga posed, arguing that by hiring her, the government had demonstrated its lack of seriousness in addressing the challenge of unemployment.

Others argued that the government was worsening the youth unemployment crisis by appointing a person who is “rich, powerful and well-connected”.

Hapa ni kubaya. Watu wanatolewa retirement kupewa job; sisi wengine tulipe ushuru wapate mishahara (The situation is bad. Retirees are being recalled and offered jobs while the rest of us have to pay taxes for their salaries),” Mutichilo Mike noted.

Former presidential candidate Mohamed Abduba Dida termed the appointment as shocking, saying it showed the government’s “consistency and dedication towards failure.”

“When you think you have seen it all, the government pulls another one,” he added.

Others said such appointments dented President Kenyatta’s legacy.

When he took over power in 2013, the President vowed to fight youth unemployment and to create 500,000 new jobs every year. That has not been the case.

“In a nation where unemployment is a real crisis for the youth, such crucial positions need visionary leaders,” David Musyoka argued, adding that it should not be “reward schemes for political loyalty”.

“We are now lacking direction,” Sammy Mohammed lamented, wondering, “how can we grow our economy by recycling these old MPs?”

Mr Mohammed went on to suggest that the President should “try one of us” to assess the youth’s competency and suitability.

Mary Wambui, a businesswoman and politician, was the MP for Othaya Constituency, Nyeri County from 2013 and 2017.

According to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, nine out of every 10 unemployed Kenyans are below 35 years.

The bureau puts the overall unemployment rate in the country at between 7 and 12 percent, a figure that is disputed.


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