Cabinet again fails to meet gender rule with five women appointments

The newly reconstituted Cabinet has failed to meet the rule that requires no more than two-thirds of persons elected or appointed to a government body be of the same gender.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has appointed five women to be Cabinet secretaries, which translates to 21 per cent of the 23-member Cabinet that also includes the President, Deputy President and the Attorney General.

Mr Kenyatta appointed five men and one woman to the Cabinet unveiled on Tuesday night.

“Not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender,” the supreme law says.

Mr Kenyatta had in his first Cabinet unveiled after the 2013 General Election appointed six women ministers representing 28.5 per cent of the Cabinet.

The situation was worsened by the exit of two female ministers – Anne Waiguru and Charity Ngilu.

The appointment of Sicily Kariuki, who previously served as principal secretary for Agriculture, as CS for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs has raised the number to five but still below the constitutional threshold.

Other women CSs are Raychelle Omamo (Defence) Amina Mohammed (Foreign Affairs), Prof Judy Wakhungu (Environment) and Phylis Kandie (Labour and EAC Affairs).

Constitutional lawyer Peter Wanyama told the Business Daily that the president was not under strict obligation to observe the rule as per a Supreme Court ruling on the issue.

“There is no legal basis because the Supreme Court gave an aisory that the two-thirds gender rule should be implemented progressively,” Mr Wanyama said.

In 2012, Attorney-General Githu Muigai had sought a ruling on whether the gender rule was to be realised immediately after the March 2013 elections or over a longer period of time.

Other institutions including Parliament are yet to meet the two-thirds gender rule with a 2017 deadline looming.

The Supreme Court ruling said that Parliament should have a framework on gender representation by August 2015, a deadline that has passed.

The two-thirds gender rule was introduced to correct women’s under-representation in government, both for elected officials and appointments.

In some instances, especially in county assemblies, the rule is already part of the law and the devolved houses nominated women MCAs to bring up the numbers.

Parliament is seeking a constitutional amendment to allow it nominate extra members to cover any shortfall from elections in a manner similar to that of county assemblies.