The race for Migori Woman Rep seat promises to be hotly contested as the election date approaches.
Incumbent Dennitah Ghati faces stiff competition from four women. They are Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology don Pamela Odhiambo, Ms Roseline Ohanya, Ms Doreen Dande and Ms Fatuma Zainab Mohammed.
Ms Ghati, the ODM flag-bearer in 2013, garnered 189,457 votes against Ms Mohammed of Peoples Democratic Party who got 58,976 votes.
Ms Mohammed contested the results but a court upheld Ms Ghati’s victory.
“I am re-energised. Let her brace for a tough battle,” Ms Mohammed said recently.
Of the four, it is Dr Odhiambo who appears to be giving Ms Ghati sleepless nights. The strategic management lecturer has been campaigning to secure the ODM ticket.
Born in Nyatike and married in Suna West, Dr Odhiambo’s “deep pockets” will come as an added advantage.
“My vision is to see women and girls being empowered through education,” she says.
“Migori needs a person strong enough who can stand out and speak for women and girls.”
Ms Ghati, popularly referred to as ‘Nyar Kuria’, believes she will be re-elected “owing to my track record as the first county woman rep”.
Ms Ghati says she helped establish women groups and funded them to start income generating activities.
“The National Government Affirmative Action Fund has assisted many pupils. We have been giving out bursaries,” she says.
She holds a master’s degree in social work and international relations.
Before joining politics, she was active in addressing the plight of girls in Kuria.
Through the Education Centre for Advancement of Women, an NGO she founded, Ms Ghati has been fighting Female Genital Mutilation and early marriages in Kuria.
Confined to a wheelchair after a 2014 road accident in Ntulele, the politician dismisses the idea that she is banking on sympathy votes.
She was a was a beneficiary of negotiated democracy between the Kuria and the Luo.
Under the plan, the Kuria were to get the deputy governor and senator seats while their Luo counterparts got the powerful governor’s position.
The Kuria would in turn vote for ODM presidential candidate Raila Odinga.
However, mistrust between the two communities set in after it emerged that Jubilee got almost half of the votes in Kuria.
Kuria West MP Mathias Robi (United Republican Party) and his Kuria East counterpart Shadrack Manga (Kanu) are Jubilee leaning.
The Luo feel the Kuria did meet their end of the bargain.
Ms Ghati’s opponents appear to capitalise on this mistrust and have told her to forget the negotiated democracy notion.
“She has sensed defeat and that is why she is rooting for negotiated democracy. It will not work this time,” Dr Odhiambo said.
It is not clear if Mr Odinga, who enjoys a near-fanatical support in the region, would vouch for another round of negotiated democracy.
Ms Ghati is working hard to solidify support in her Kuria backyard.
There is the growing perception among residents that she has not done enough to address their problems.
“We had high hopes in her but she has done little. Only her handlers and those related to her get bursary,” Mr Jacob Rioba, a resident of Maeta where Ms Ghati hails from, said.
Yet many other residents are not enthusiastic about the woman representative post, insisting it is of no value to them.
“I don’t see the need for this office. It is hard to say that Honourable Ghati has done anything meaningful in this region,” Mr Samuel Ikerege from Kuria West said.
The key issues expected to shape the race include the plight of girls and women, especially in Kuria where FGM and early marriages are rampant, poor access to education by girls and the high rate of unemployment among women.
The way the aspirants will address these issues and how they intend to offer solutions will help determine who carries the day on August 8.