Negotiated democracy see Fatuma Dullo elected first woman senator in northern Kenya
Cosmopolitan Northern Frontier County of Isiolo is famous for many things and one of it is a vicious cycle of armed violence that is witnessed some months to electioneering period where dominant clans flex their supremacy muscle in readiness to grab elective posts from incumbent community.
The cycle of electoral violence has made communities to devise a new strategy where they move with their families to neighbouring Meru and Nanyuki in bid to escape humanitarian consequences caused by armed clan militias waging war against their nemesis.
The armed attacks pitting various communities like Meru, Borana, Samburu, Somali, Sakuye, and Burji has affected socio-economic growth of the county with local investors and community members fearing to engage in meaningful investment and development due to fear of armed violence.
“Isiolo is one of the hotspot in Kenya that has witnessed various large scale armed skirmishes involving warring communities fighting over resources for their livestock, political supremacy and land control. The conflict has caused many problem like mass displacement with cases of sexual violence being reported in various flash points as well as a high death toll,’’ Sora Ababoru said in an interview with the Kenyan Woman.
Locals are privy to past large scale conflict witnessed in Isiolo between 2000-2002 where a large segment of the population was rendered homeless and dozens of people killed by marauding armed militias who were out to flush some communities out of the town with aim of balancing electoral numbers and galvanizing their political base.
The violence which caught locals unaware sowed seeds of mistrust between communities forcing some to flee to safer zones in the north with others selling their property and migrating to other urban centres in Nairobi and Central Kenya.
In midst of this cycle of violence, women were hard hit with many not only losing their loved ones in the conflict but also being victims of rape, inhumane treatment and beatings.
The gaping wound left by armed conflicts needed to be healed by community groups and personalities who appealed to all clans to bring the trust back. This is the uphill task that faced Fatuma Dullo who at tender age lost her parents and was brought up by a renowned elder in Isiolo County Haro Sime.
With her leadership and administrative skills derived from provincial administration, Dullo managed to start dialogue with various women’s groups and leaders. She also created a platform for them to discuss outstanding issues that could spill into large scale violence.
The initiative received communities backing with elders and youths welcoming it and respecting all peace resolutions that came out of the final engagement which eventually led to a peaceful and restive period in Isiolo County.
The engagement renewed hope for the locals as they experienced peaceful polls between 2007 to 2017 with local communities in Isiolo petitioning the United Republican Party (URP) leadership then led by Deputy President William Ruto to nominate Fatuma Dullo to the Senate due to her contribution in the community.
Dullo’s record of promoting peace between warring clans in Isiolo made the national government to recognise her peace work and Mzalendo People’s Shujaa Award for her work and efforts in championing issues pertaining to security. Dullo is also a recipient of the Presidential Chief of the Order of the Burning Spear (CBS) 2015 award.
Dullo staged a sterling performance in the Senate by making active contributions and fighting for the rights of the poor and marginalized groups forcing Isiolo residents to nick name her “mtetezi wa wanyonge (fighter for the voiceless)’’.
Dulo showed her leadership capabilities at the age 22 when was recruited as District Officer and she rose to through the ranks and the experience saw her being appointed commissioner at the Kenya Human Rights Commission.
“She stood with Isiolo people during hard times and was rewarded with nomination to Senate. Everybody knew she would clinch elective seat when she decided to vie and the community overwhelmingly voted for her in just concluded 2017 election,” says Isinina Jumale.
The first woman to be elected senator of Isiolo County, Dullo who holds a Master’s degree holder from the University of Nairobi survived many obstacles despite her popularity. A section of elders opposed her candidature with a few of them reinforcing outdated beliefs that women should only go for women representative seats and leave other elective posts to men.
“Senator Dullo was endorsed by council of elders from all clans but some elders tried to denounce the decision. Equally others believed that she was good for women representative seat that would enable her fight for women’s rights,” says Yasmin Maadow who works with a local non-governmental organisation. She notes: “But at the end of the day the will of the majority prevailed Dullo won. It’s a great win for women and the marginalized communities.”
Locals agree that the Senator bagged the elective seat due to her record and achievements which forced the traditional system from all clans in Isiolo into endorsing her bid. Dullo vied with the Party for Development and Reforms.
She is the only woman candidate who received majority support from traditional systems thus a big beneficiary of negotiated democracy.