Beatrice Kadeveresia Elachi, the first female Speaker of the Nairobi County Assembly, spoke to The Nation about how Uhuru, Ruto relationship shaped decisions, her dalliance with Michuki and the intrigues at City hall.
What is your background?
Beatrice Kadeveresia Elachi is a girl from Lugari constituency, Kakamega County, born to Mzee Joel Elachi and Mary Mumbi Elachi from Mukurweini constituency, Nyeri County, in a polygamous family. My mother is the first wife and she has a co-wife.
I began my schooling at Consolata School before moving to Kileleshwa Primary School and then to St Teresa’s in Malava. For secondary education, I joined Moi Girls Vokoli High School in Kakamega County.
Thereafter, I was admitted to the University of Nairobi for an undergraduate degree in Peace and Security. I am married with four children. I also have 18 children who I support at a Children’s Home in Ngong.
In 2001, I joined a NGO called the National Council of Women in Kenya as a programmes’ officer working under the late Jane Kiano together with Prof Wanjiku Kabira. This is where I got the platform to know how to work within communities, with civil societies and engaging more on women empowerment.
How did you then join politics?
It is the late Cabinet minister John Michuki who pushed me into politics. In 2003, I began interacting more with politics when we started work on the Bomas convention on constitutional change with the former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, who was then working at Ford Foundation. We were part of the caucus of women of Bomas.
Then in 2005, came the banana and orange referendum where we lost as part of the ‘Banana team’. Then Michuki picked me to work for him as a consultant. At that time, Rift Valley regional commissioner George Natembeya was his personal assistant. This was in 2006 heading to 2007. In the 2007 General Election, I supported former President Mwai Kibaki.
After the 2007 elections, I worked with the late Kofi Annan on Agenda Four and within our team were the current Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and lawyer Kimotho Waiganjo (Governor Ann Waiguru’s husband).
I also worked closely with the Kriegler Commission as a consultant as well as the Philip Waki Commission but left the latter to go back to women’s issues.
The Kenyan Women Parliamentarians gave me some work to do for them and I worked with Martha Karua, Millie Odhiambo, and the late Joyce Laboso.
Come 2010, we worked with constitutional experts to ensure women gains go into the constitution. In 2011, I joined the Alliance Party of Kenya (APK) and became their secretary-general. Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi was the party leader.
How did you get nominated as senator and subsequent Majority Whip?
As APK sec-gen, I got nominated as a senator after we played a role in ensuring President Uhuru Kenyatta under The National Alliance (TNA) won the presidency.
The Majority Whip position would have gone to Mr Kiraitu but Prof Kithure Kindiki had already been given the Majority Leader seat. So they settled on me for regional balance.
From the experience, I came up with the Food Security Bill, the amendments to the NYS Bill, several motions, bills and statements.
Was it like a culture shock for you, coming from the NGO world into real politics?
(Laughs). It was. The culture shock was in the way things were being done on this other side of the world.
You would think things would move fast, but I realised that in government, there are many bottlenecks that can stop many things from working. In the NGO world, there was clear plan in terms of the deliverables, but in government, it is different just like it is in Parliament.
How did the decision to run for the Dagoretti North parliamentary seat come about?
We were like five of us at the Senate through affirmative action seats and so we said we needed to leave these seats so that we empower other women. We had Martha Wangari of Gilgil, Naisula Lesuuda, and Janet Ongera. We decided we had been empowered enough and we could now go for active politics.
Why Dagoretti North?
I have lived there since my primary school days when it was still under Westlands constituency. That was the reason I chose it. It is not that it just popped out of nowhere. I have lived half of my life there.
Why did you choose to vie on Jubilee Party ticket and not ODM which was popular in the area then?
I decided to go against the party that people wanted because I knew if I had faced Simba Arati in the ODM nominations it would have been bloody. I decided to stick with Jubilee and that is how I lost the seat.
I looked at it and said, if we go together, it will be a different ball game and people would have died.
How was the experience getting into active politics?
For us to get the 36,000 votes, it means people saw something in me that they wished to see in our leadership. We learnt the lessons and moved on.
Are you going for Dagoretti North in 2022?
Yes. I think Simba has served and he now wants to be the governor of Kisii. I wish him well.
Which political formation?
Well, I will just go with the handshake formation and see how it goes.
How hard is it for women in elective politics?
In constituencies, it is not a joke. The problem is not even competing, it is the way they want to do it. The use of violence, threats and storming meetings with youths on motorbikes scares many women. If IEBC is serious this time then they should use evidence presented to take action.
What is the solution then?
Political parties should put all women who have decided to go for elective seats on top of nomination list for them to have the opportunity to get nominated. This will embolden them.
How did you get to be Jubilee’s candidate for Nairobi County Assembly Speaker’s position?
I will be very honest on that one. I think the President looked and realised, this girl has done a lot and has even tried her hand in Nairobi politics. You see, you do not just become a Speaker. I used to campaign asking for the MCAs to support me. It was not for free, many people think it was free, no. I would be asked for incentives, which I gave. In fact, I went to Bunge Sacco, and emptied my savings.
How did the President communicate the decision?
I was removing my posters with Irungu Houghton here in Kilimani, and we were at Kilimani Primary when I received a call from State House by one of the secretaries.
We met at State House as all Nairobi Jubilee elected leaders including Governor Mike Sonko, Senator Johnson Sakaja, and the then deputy Governor Polycarp Igathe, among others.
This was early September, 2017 before the nullification of the presidential results. It is during the meeting that Abdi Guyo was settled on as the Majority Leader though the MCAs wanted Ngara MCA Chege Mwaura to balance the leadership. John Kamangu was brought in as my deputy.
Who were the other people who were interested in the position?
I know DP William Ruto wanted the current Speaker, Benson Mutura but the President had already settled on me.
You then come in as the Speaker, what did you find?
I come in and find Jacob Ngwele as the clerk. I also met the late Alex ole Magelo who explained to me all the challenges he had gone through.
Ngwele would then call his former colleagues at Parliament to ask them how I worked. He feared I knew processes more than Magelo. That was his biggest fear. There were some things he could not do or say because I would not allow them to happen. I would just tell him this is wrong and that was absolutely his fear.
As we continued, there were some things that I would say outrightly that were not right and when I asked a few questions, especially how they ran the offices in the wards, nobody wanted to talk about that. It was just a clouded affair where people just wanted to do things that benefited them.
For instance, the Majority Leader really begged to let them appoint people who would be travelling. However, in reality, they wanted to make it their tool threatening members. They would tell them, you know it is us who decide when and where you travel to. They misused the process and you could find one MCA had travelled 10 times while another one five and the other once or none at all because he or she was not in good books with the them.
In fact, if the Auditor General can decide to audit the offices of the MCAs, oh my God, she will collapse.
Do you think all these led to you being impeached?
(Laughs).You want the truth on this matter? The truth is that there was never an impeachment. But I thank God the Labour court looked at the process and issued conservatory orders.
Can you remember events leading to the impeachment?
They timed when I had gone to Malindi to put in a paper for affirmative action on our slums. I had gone to convince the meeting that Nairobi needs an affirmative action fund to support its people during the times of hunger, especially those from slums like Kibera, Kawangware, Mathare, Korogocho, Mukuru, Deep Sea, and others.
While there, I am sent a message that I am supposed to be in Nairobi in the next two hours to defend myself. And I said to myself, how am I going to defend myself in Nairobi in two hours yet I am in Malindi?
So I just left it at that and then I called my lawyer and told him whatever was going to happen. I told him wait until it happens, please walk in court and see whether we can get an order. That’s how we got our first [conservatory] order.
Then they became very hostile and I said to myself that there was no need of coming back and engaging in endless fights. .
Is that why you kept away for one year?
Yes. I did not want the fights.
But did you see it coming? Were there tell-tale signs?
Yes. I saw it coming. They even told me in the corridors that unajua wewe tunaenda kukutoa next week. But I told them, nyinyi mnitoeni tu tukutane kortini. You know you even reach a point when you wonder if you really want to argue and they’ve already made up their minds.
Some would tell me to go look for money and give them. Give them money, this other side will also give them money. Will you manage? No.
Did you feel betrayed by the party?
Yes. I felt the likes of (Raphael) Tuju, Jubilee sec-gen, did not want to see any change at the assembly. And also being a woman, they did not care.
I believe if it was a man, they would have really fought to see things work. But because this is a woman, they just let this woman to sort herself. Nobody wanted to know the truth.
So why did you decide to eventually come back?
I came back to clear my name. What the people had said were all lies. You remember they said I had gone for plastic surgery and misappropriated public fund and all ridiculous things.
Did Sonko support you when coming back?
Yes, he did. But some people were not happy that I was back. DP Ruto called Sonko asking him why he had allowed me to return. Sonko had put him on loudspeaker.
He then asked me, unaskia venye DP anasema? Anauliza kwa nini tumekurudisha. Amesema tukutoe.
But I responded telling him the DP is not God. It is God who has aided my return and I will only leave at my own volition.
Why do you think the DP was not happy with you coming back?
Ahhh! si I told you I was never his candidate. His candidate was Bena (Benson Mutura). I was never DP’s candidate. Yeah!
Who stands the best chance nationally between Ruto and Raila?
Let me say who I believe in and why so. I believe Raila Amollo Odinga can remove us from where we are now. Why? Everything Raila has said even when he was in Kibaki’s government, you will see them doing it and it can happen.
The other thing is that for now where Kenya is, we need to see a different transition. We need to get to see us moving from all the things we have seen.
Why don’t you think DP Ruto can also do the same things?
The reason why I don’t believe in the ideology of my DP is just one. He has been in this government and worked with it for five years. This government borrowed money during that time.
During Raila’s time, the President has not borrowed any money in the three years they have been with Raila. But the DP’s side keep on saying Raila messed up things.
But this has pushed the DP to the periphery yet they were re-elected as a pair in 2017?
The DP should not complain because he has been given the chance to campaign and use his Karen office as a campaign ground. He has been given the opportunity to have Kenyans love him more. He should not complain. Maybe he normally does complain but he knows this was the best opportunity to do the things he is now doing.
You are in Jubilee but why is it that you only have problems with the DP and not the President?
President Kenyatta was the person who took the Bible and swore to lead the country and not the DP, but I respect him.
The problem I have with him is that the things he is promising us, he will not do them to be very honest. We don’t want a country where we want to lie to people that we are going to change their lives yet we know we are not going to do so.
In this era, we have closed a national university and nobody is talking about it. If you come and tell me that you can run the country, please revive for us Moi University. It is in your region and you chased away other tribes to leave it to your tribesmen. You didn’t complain and now more than 15,000 have been sent home and nobody is talking about it. And then you tell me that I vote for William Ruto? Nooo. Hell nooo!
Why can’t you work with Ruto?
He believes he is the Alpha and Omega. He made sure that good people in Jubilee went home in 2017 so that he doesn’t get people who will question him. The greed is one thing that has made me be disappointed in him. You can’t eat a country in five years like this.
What if he becomes the President, will you work with him?
I can’t work with him politically but if he becomes the president, we will work with him for the sake of the people but we will not forget his greed and arrogance. He will also not have the leeway to ride on us.