‘Mama Jael’ politically kicked out Mwai Kibaki out of Nairobi to Othaya for good

'Mama Jael' and Kibaki [Photo: Courtesy]

She is credited for having politically kicked out Mwai Kibaki out of Nairobi, effectively consigning the former president to Othaya, his home constituency in Nyeri County.

That was during the 1969 General Election when women rights campaigner, Jael Mbogo - the first woman shorthand typist to join the City Council of Nairobi - almost sent a sitting cabinet minister packing in the race for Nairobi’s Bahati parliamentary seat.

Kibaki, then the Finance Minister, was behind during the early tallying, but alas! the outcome was delayed for three days, with a crack police squad swarming the polling centre.

When the verdict was announced, Britain’s The Observer newspaper termed the victory ‘a wafer-thin margin’ as Kibaki had won with 500 votes.

To avoid similar humiliation, Baba Jimmy contested the 1974 general elections in Othaya and forgot Nairobi for good.

For the mahewa generation who are still at sea, Jael Mbogo was the second national chairperson for the giant Maendeleo ya Wanawake after Phoebe Asiyo.

 The 1969 elections against ‘Mama Jael’ were a near mirror image of the disputed 2007 elections that led to post poll madness in which over 1,000 Kenyans perished.

Jael told The Observer in 2008: “I was so far ahead in early vote counting that even the BBC reported that a young woman had felled a government minister....Kibaki stalled the results, and then robbed me of victory...”

According to the Northeastern Dictionary of Women’s Biography, Jael left Kenya for the USA in the late 1950s to study economics and returned in 1963.

 She first worked with Umoja wa Wanawake wa Tanzania before joining Kenya’s Maendeleo ya Wanawake, the women’s social and cultural organisation, in 1965.

Mama Jael’ was one of the six women who fought for its autonomy from the colonial Department of Community Development and Rehabilitation and headed it for 10 years before Naomi Ramtu, Ruth Habwe, Jane Kiano, Wilkister Onsando and Zipporah Kittony followed suit.

Despite participating in the 1969, 1974 and 1997 elections, Mama Jael Ogombe Mbogo, one time secretary general of Freedom from Hunger, founder member of the  League of Women Voters and Ford Kenya’s national organising secretary, never won an elective post.

She told Wajibu magazine in 2002: “I was one of the four women...who were the first to contest for elective offices... I was a pioneer. Pioneers never reap the fruits. They lead and hand over the mantle.”

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