NAIROBI, KENYA – Pascalia Makonjio, 33, was pregnant with her third child when she declared her candidacy during July 2011 for the parliamentary seat of Nambale constituency.
As soon as she gave birth, she launched her campaign in the Busia district in Kenya’s Western province for the March 2013 elections.
Makonjio, who runs a small grocery shop in Busia, says she’s running because politicians victorious in the last elections haven’t kept their campaign promises, like initiating poverty-eradication projects in the constituency. She started with mobilizing local youth and women to demand change.
But she says that some women and youth advised her not to run for the seat. Instead, they encouraged her to vie for the women’s representative seat, created in each county under the 2010 constitution to boost the number of women in Parliament.
“They advised me to leave the parliamentary seat for men,” Makonjio says. “But I told them that we have had male [members of Parliament] for years, and they had not changed the lives of Nambale people. Our cotton ginnery has collapsed, and the local polytechnic is in poor condition.”
Discouragement soon escalated to insults, death threats and trespassing.
Late last year, she spoke at a funeral, where politicians tend to comment on local issues. She criticized the current leaders for failing to help sugarcane farmers, the main occupation in Nambale. At around 1:30 a.m. following her speech, Makonjio says a group of men invaded her property.
“I heard people jump into my compound,” Makonjio says. “I looked out through my bedroom window and saw three men who were wearing masks. I called the police, and they quickly came to my rescue.”
The thugs came back the following night, she says. She called the police, and they repulsed them again.
Makonjio says that around the same period, one of her male opponents asked her to drop her bid and to abandon politics.
“He told me that I was just a poor girl and an outsider, since I was not born in the area,” she says. “My husband and I bought land and built a home there a few years ago. I told him that I would not back down and continued with my campaigns.”
Then, she received a text message from an anonymous sender threatening to kill her. When she showed police the message, they investigated and told her the sender was from the area. Police haven’t arrest anyone yet and are still investigating the threat.
The mother of three says she has hardly had a peaceful night since she announced her plans to run for the parliamentary seat. Because of the threats, Makonjio’s husband took their children, including their 9-month-old, to Kitale, a town more than 70 miles northeast of Busia where he works for the government as a water engineer.
“One rainy night, I was tipped that the thugs were about to raid my house,” Makonjio says. “I felt so helpless, as the policeman that I used to call had been transferred. I