I am Rehema Maitha, born and bred in Tezo Ward, Kilifi County. My interest in politics started way back in primary school when I was involved in class and school debates. There were times I used to be on the proposition and other days I would be opposing. On a few occasions, I was the speaker controlling and making decisions on which side won the debate of the day. My interest grew and I did the same in high school, where most of my classmates referred to me jokingly as “Madam Speaker/Sir.” After college, I involved myself in community development work to try and build my experience for a political platform. This ambition was enhanced when I received a mentorship and political skills training provided by Uraia Trust between 2016 and March 2017. This training prepared me for the political party primaries that were conducted countrywide in April 2017.
The political party primaries posed a lot of challenges to women aspirants. Though I worked hard in my campaigns, mobilized voters in Tezo Ward, shared my development agenda, my manifesto and asked the electorate to vote for me, the political journey was tough and very demanding. I was the only woman vying as a Member of the County Assembly (MCA) on a Jubilee Party ticket against five male counterparts.
On the nominations day, I was at my polling station to cast my vote. There were delays and we began voting at 3.00 pm- the process was peaceful with many of our supporters turning up to vote. I got in and cast my vote and on my way out I saw the incumbent, who was my main opponent, arriving in a white car. I assumed he had come to cast his vote. To my surprise, he came out of his car carrying ballot boxes /ballot papers/books and without shame got in the polling station and suddenly voting was stopped with a message that names of majority of the voters could not be found in the IEBC and Jubilee party list. The voters on the queue grumbled and asked for IEBC staff to intervene so that they could be allowed to vote, but all the requests fell on deaf ears.
I asked the presiding officer and the security officer to check on my opponent’s car for the ballot books and boxes but they refused to listen, I informed my supporters about the ballot papers I had seen in my opponent’s car and demanded that we stop voting until the matter is resolved but no one listened. The voters in the polling station stormed in my opponent’s car and removed already marked ballot papers that my opponent came to use for rigging the elections. My opponent got worked up and called the police and reported that I had disrupted the voting exercise. It was then that I was arrested and remanded in custody for the rest of the day and night only to be released in the afternoon of the following day after he had been announced as the winner.
My case was in court for two months, having been accused of disrupting elections, planning to rig and causing chaos. My complainant, his witnesses and supporters never came to court, but the magistrate continued to postpone the case several times until on 3rd of July 2017 when he declared that I was not guilty. Though I am grateful that my case is over, I feel sad that I lost the chance to register as an Independent candidate being rigged out. Above all, I am grateful to Sauti Ya Wanawake Pwani and my fellow Women aspirants in Kilifi and Mombasa Counties who stood by me during the court proceedings.
Long live women leadership!!