Alice: the unapologetic firebrand of kandara

Kandara MP Alice Wahome. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Kandara MP Alice Wahome. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Alice Wahome, a Jubilee Party stalwart currently under investigation for alleged assault on an election returning officer, is no stranger to controversy. She takes no prisoners when it comes to defending her turf.

The mother- of- four is variously described as a human rights defender, hardliner, irredeemably vindictive and even a hater by those who closely interact with her. 

Right from her days in civil society activism, she has always cut the image of an avowed defender of rights, taking up women affairs after the professional journey that took her through the Council of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) and the Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida).

“My association with Fida and the LSK gave me a broader understanding of society and the place of politics … I felt ready, available and qualified enough for political leadership,” Mrs Wahome says of a background that conferred upon her the political pedigree of a fighter.

Whatever is not discernible from her past associations can also be gleaned from her list of heroes.

The University of Nairobi law graduate cites prominent women like former Karachuonyo MP Phoebe Asiyo, former Justice minister Martha Karua, former Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza and Prof Wanjiku Kabira as people who influenced her career choice.

Now serving a second term in Parliament, Mrs Wahome remains a fighter, but appears to have undergone some sort of rebirth. She is more of a government defender than a rights advocate.

She misses no opportunity to stir up Jubilee supporters at charged political rallies and wakes up early to defend government position on regular TV and radio morning talk shows.

In the run up to the October 26 repeat presidential poll, she was one of the women leaders who frequently showed up in public wearing military fatigues and calling themselves the Jubilee Women Brigade.

It was while allegedly defending President Uhuru Kenyatta’s votes that Mrs Wahome was caught on camera on October 27 roughing up Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) returning officer, Martin Malonza.

According to the Kandara MP, all she wanted was a correction after a presiding officer wrongly entered some 440 votes garnered by Mr Kenyatta for Mr Japheth Kaluyu, an independent candidate.

The video clip, which went viral, however exposes the MP as an aggressive operative. She is captured forcibly dragging Mr Malonza back to the tallying hall “to do his work”. “You are very stupid… Can we agree on what the law says? You can’t destroy all the work that we have done.”

The adamant Malonza stays put. She then turns to police officers: “Are you doing your work? If this man leaves this place, you are all going to be responsible. He is not allowed to leave. These are the people who spoil elections.”

Mr Malonza promptly filed an assault case against the MP six days ago, claiming he lost about Sh15,000 during the scuffle.

While the IEBC demanded the immediate arrest and prosecution of Mrs Wahome, it is the presiding officer who allegedly made the clerical error who has since been charged in court. Mrs Wahome has accused Mr Malonza of being “dramatic over a simple matter”.

She is not new to controversies. Last year, Murang’a police “launched a manhunt” for the MP for allegedly using her position to block traffic officers from inspecting unroadworthy vehicles. That long search ended in March this year after she presented herself before a magistrate’s court.

Still in 2016, she was at it again, fighting tooth and nail in an attempt to block the appointment of Justice Philomena Mwilu to replace Kalpana Rawal as the Deputy Chief Justice.

She told the parliamentary Justice and Legal Affairs Committee not to clear Justice Mwilu because “she has never been a good champion of women”.

She went ahead to allege that Mrs Mwilu had accepted a Sh3 million bribe to rule against her 2011 case in which she represented Fida. Long before the parliamentary vetting, Mrs Wahome had also lost her bid to get Justice Mwilu to recuse herself from her election petition case.

“The Fida case raised weighty constitutional issues and was unanimously decided by four judges, but has caused hatred that she uses to pick me for beating whenever she has a problem,” justice Mwilu would tell the committee.

“Most haters are cowards who will never approach you. You can ignore them first and deal with them head on if they persist.”

She hit the headlines in 2008 when she lodged a petition against the election of Maina Kamau as Kandara MP, citing massive rigging. That case has never concluded.

When it comes to defending her people, however, Mrs Wahome knows no political boundaries. In February, when Majority Leader in the National Assembly Aden Duale suggested that the Central Bank of Kenya(CBK) had passed tough financial reporting regulations because its governor Patrick Njoroge does not hold any bank account, and has dedicated his salaries to faith, Mrs Wahome was unforgiving.

“The Governor of CBK comes from my constituency and I know his family very well...The salary of an individual is a right of that individual. How he uses his salary is personal; it is not a public resource because he is not a personal employee,” she said and asked Mr Duale to withdraw the remarks.