When President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday named Anne Nderitu as his nominee for the position of Registrar of Political Parties (RPP), the sharply partisan reactions that followed perhaps provided a glimpse of what it means to occupy the hot seat.
Some social media users treated the news with slants towards gender, tribe or supposed political inclination while others saw it as 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 stride in the pursuit for deepening democracy in the country.
“This office is looked upon by Kenyans to shape Kenya’s politics and it is prudent to work with passion to fulfil these expectations. Regardless of the situation, I will strive to work with all parties for betterment of this country” she said ahead of vetting by National Assembly next Tuesday.
Ms Nderitu is not new in the country’s governance scene. Prior to 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).
Her secondment to succeed Ms Lucy Ndungu however came as a baptism of fire, often having to deal with dirty machinations in political parties and ensure justice for those aggrieved by such schemes.
Her first major test in office came when she handled a case in which the ODM party had attempted to revoke the membership of Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa and her late Msambweni counterpart Solomon Dori for their dalliance with Deputy President William Ruto who is a member of the rival Jubilee party.
The attempted ejection, which would have resulted in the duo losing their respective parliamentary seats, flopped because the party did not follow due process.
In another instance, Amani National Congress (ANC) party resolved to eject Kakamega senator Cleophas Malala for campaigning against its candidate, Eliud Owalo in the Kibra by-election but it never happened as Ms Nderitu accused ANC of flouting is own constitution.
"The National Governing Council did not approve the disciplinary committee as reconstituted by the NEC in line with Article 46 (1) (d)(ii) of the ANC party Constitution,” responded Ms Nderitu to ANC.
Recently, the Registrar surprised friend and foe by registering parties associated with elected leaders, akin to evidence of shifting political allegiances.
Murang’a Governor Mwangi Wa Iria’s aide Ephantus Githae fronted formation of the Civic Renewal Party (CRP) where he(Githae) serves as its secretary-general.
Transformational National Alliance Party (TNAP) associated with Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria was also registered.
And when Ford Kenya party leader Moses Wetang’ula was ousted for alleged gross misconduct, Ms Nderitu was barred by the High Court from making changes that would have seen Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi take control of the party.
This is after the Registrar gave notice of Wetang’ula’s ouster and replacement with Mr Wamunyinyi. The party’s national organising secretary Mandu Mandu was kicked out and replaced with Josephine Waungu.
“Any person with written submissions concerning the intended change by the political party shall within 7 days from the date herein deposit them with the Registrar of Political Parties,” read the notice.
Though some political parties have accused the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties(ORPP) of being a stumbling block in disciplining truant members, Ms Nderitu maintains that all is guided by law.
“Probably, the provision that allows litigation all the way from the tribunal, High Court, Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court should be changed to introduce timelines as to when the appeals process should have been completed,” she said.
“What we encourage from where we sit is that the parties should strictly follow the provisions of the law and also stick to their constitution so that when the process is challenged, then there is no loophole,” she said.
Apart from arbitrating on party squabbles, the Registrar is also tasked with allocating funds for political party operations based on their strength in the Senate, national and county assemblies.
This has proved a weighty matter amid squabbles on how the amount should be shared. For example, affiliate parties of the National Super Alliance (Nasa) remain locked a vicious tussle over the Sh4billion political parties’ windfall.
Three affiliate parties, Amani National Congress(ANC), Wiper Democratic Movement and Ford-Kenya demand a share of the windfall claimed by ODM.
Should Parliament approve Ms Nderitu’s nomination, her in-tray will definitely remain full as the country wades towards the General Elections in 2022 amid heated rivalry and vicious fights for control of political parties.