Profiles

Newsmakers of the year

Immaculate Kassait

Ms Immaculate Kassait. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Immaculate Kassait

The election specialist last month become Kenya’s first-ever data commissioner. While some celebrated her rise in a predominantly patriarchal society, others were quick to question her suitability for the sensitive role given her history as an official of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which has in the past been criticised for questionable data management in the disputed 2017 General Election.

Parliament was even served with a memorandum by the International Commission of Jurists questioning her suitability, but the MPs rejected it because the lobby failed to demonstrate her culpability.

“I am willing and ready to work to ensure that regulations are in place to ensure that data protection in Kenya becomes a reality. Kenya is placed second in Africa after Ghana as a trailblazer in ensuring personal data is protected,” Ms Kassait was quoted saying when she appeared before the Communication and Innovation committee of Parliament for vetting in October.

Polycarp Igathe

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Mr Igathe has hopped from the office of the Deputy Governor of Nairobi to three C-Suite jobs. FILE PHOTO | NMG

He has mastered the art of job-hopping. In the past three years alone, Mr Igathe has hopped from the office of the Deputy Governor of Nairobi to three C-Suite jobs.

In March this year, he resigned as the executive vice-president for sales and marketing in Africa at top oil marketer Vivo Energy and returned to Equity Holdings as a chief commercial officer.

He had made a comeback to Vivo Energy in September last year from Equity where he was the lender’s Kenya’s managing director.

Mr Igathe’s propensity for job-hopping is likely to be a case study for HR professionals used to seeing this culture among millennials and those mainly in low- and mid-level positions.

Does he have any regrets in life? “I don’t have any regrets. I get a punch, I dust my pants and move on. I’m lucky that way,” he once said in a past interview.

Martha Koome

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Appellate judge Martha Koome. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The Court of Appeal judge has a soft spot for children. In October, she was announced as the runner-up for the 2020 UN in Kenya Person of the Year, a recognition for her children's rights advocacy. Justice Koome says she will defend children whenever and wherever and speeds up their cases for hearing.

She says children brought before the courts are traumatised and stigmatised such that it is difficult for them to adjust to normal life and reach their full potential as adult citizens.

“I recognise that children are vulnerable due to their age. I also recognise when they are in conflict with the law or they are victims of offenses, it is because of the failure of a system. Society, family, or community have failed them. That makes children victims,” said Justice Koome who joined the Judiciary in 2003.

Ann Nderitu

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In September, Anne Nderitu was named by President Uhuru Kenyatta as his nominee for the position of Registrar of Political Parties (RPP). FILE PHOTO | NMG

She is a teacher who turned into an umpire of political parties. In September, she was named by President Uhuru Kenyatta as his nominee for the position of Registrar of Political Parties (RPP).

Some social media users treated the news with slants towards gender, tribe, or supposed political inclination while others saw it as a victory for women long-disadvantaged by retrogressive cultural dogma on leadership.

But for Ms Nderitu it is all about the job. Being the acting Registrar of Political Parties, she has perhaps already tasted a dose of being an umpire in Kenya’s political scene.

She has been heckled and praised in equal measure, taking it all in her stride in the pursuit of deepening democracy in the country.

Before taking up an acting role as Registrar of Political Parties on August 15, 2018, she headed electoral training at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Lincoln Njeru

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Mr Njeru’s highest career point came in 2006 when he held the rank of Assistant General Manager at the Insurance Company of East Africa (ICEA). FILE PHOTO | NMG

His untamed greed dimmed his rising star. Mr Njeru’s highest career point came in 2006 when he held the rank of Assistant General Manager at the Insurance Company of East Africa (ICEA). But as fate would have it, the stint at ICEA came with bad decisions that the 58-year-old will regret for the rest of his life.

Mr Njeru was in September jailed for three years for stealing Sh62.8 million. The judge said that Sh10 million was recovered from the accused and a further Sh7 million was found in his account. Earlier, he had told the courts that he was sick and had mended his ways.

The court dismissed his defence that the money was an investment loss at the collapsed Nyaga Stockbrokers.

Evidence presented in court showed that instead of wiring the money to the insurance firm’s accounts, he deposited it in his accounts. He also invested some at the Nairobi Securities Exchange but claimed that he would have refunded the money only that the share value at the bourse got eroded.

Mary Walingo

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Maasai Mara University vice-chancellor Mary Walingo with freshers during a past event at the institution. FILE PHOTO | NMG

It has been a tough year for the university don over loss of funds. Prof Walingo, a nutrition expert, is described as one who loves engaging in Bible studies and religious exchanges with friends. When she was asked about the secret to her success during a TV interview a few months ago, she curtly replied: “The secret is Christ. I draw strength from the Bible because it says, those who wait upon the Lord shall be strengthened.”

She, however, cautioned against over-indulgence and preached the gospel of doing what is right.

So when she was arraigned over charges of conspiracy to misappropriate Sh177,007,754 from the Maasai Mara University university, it was a shocker to many.

Pavel Oimeke

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Mr Pavel Oimeke. FILE PHOTO | NMG

He has had a tough tenure as director-general of the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra).

In August, Epra board asked him to step aside pending the conclusion of a case filed against him in court.

Four months later, he was arrested and released on police bond over accusations that he demanded a Sh200,000 bribe to reopen a petrol station, which had been shut.

The Sh200,000 bribe could be a final blow to the second term of the Epra boss, who is affectionately referred to as “mfalme (king)” by peers and “scorpion” by some industry players.

It has been almost three weeks since his arrest and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission is seeking more bribery cases ahead of him being charged in court.