Susan Kihika – Biography and Life Story

For Susan Kihika’s dad, Kihika Kimani, 1974 was a good year. It was in this year that he was first elected to Parliament. Best of all, it was in this year that his favourite daughter Susan Wakarura Kihika was born.

Born on 11th December of that year, Susan can be described as that child who grew “loved by God, and by the people.” She’s also an apple that didn’t fall very far from the tree.

A courageous politician who doesn’t shy away from controversy, the second Nakuru County Senator inherited more than just leadership skills from her dad. But while her dad was limited in terms of his education, Susan Kihika is a polished leader holding several academic certificates from Kenya and from abroad.

After her primary school at Busara Forest View academy in Nyahururu, she proceeded to one of the most sought after secondary schools in Nyeri County. Bishop Gatimu Ngandu Girls High School or BG as it’s fondly known is a school every girl growing up in Nyeri and surrounding counties aspires to join. The school is one of the best performers not only in Central Kenya but in the country. In the home county, the girls compete with the bright boys from both Kagumo and Nyeri high schools which are the leading secondary schools in the region.

The young Susan did not disappoint. After her KCSE she got admitted into another prominent educational institution in the country. This time, she got admitted to Nairobi University. However, she was barely here for a semester when her father took her to study in the UK.

The weather in the United Kingdom was not friendly to Susan. She again transferred and joined the University of Northern Texas in Denton, USA. She graduated with a degree in Political Science and Government. That was not the end of her quest in academic matters as she also holds a jurist Doctorate Law Degree from the Southern Methodist University. This got her admitted to the Texas State Bar.

Before going into private practice when she set up the Kihika Law Firm, Susan Kihika had worked as a prosecutor and chief prosecutor. Her law firm had specialized mostly in representing immigrants.

This trait of standing with the seemingly lowly in the society has carried on to date. In most of her appearances as Senator, Susan Kihika has emerged as a voice of the voiceless. As a representative of the people in Nakuru County, Senator Susan Kihika has never shied away from lending her voice to the downtrodden and to those whom justice has been denied. One particular case is when she stood out as a lone voice withstanding insurmountable pressure in her quest to find justice for the Patel Dam tragedy victims in Solai.

Susan Kihika plunge into politics

 

After a twenty-year stint overseas, Susan Kihika returned to the country in August 2012. The general elections were to be held the following year in 2013. These were the first elections under Kenya’s new constitution promulgated in 2010. In these elections, devolution would be implemented and Kenya would have Senators, Governors and Women Reps who had previously not been part of Kenya’s political dispensation. The post of councillors and mayor’s had also been scrapped to be replaced with a county Parliament whose members would be called Members for County Assemblies (MCAs) led by a Speaker.

Susan threw herself into the political ring vying as MP for Bahati. Her greatest competitor was the incumbent, Hon. Onesmus Kimani Ngunjiri, a veteran KANU political operative. As fate would have it, she lost to Kimani Ngunjiri.

“I was completely new in politics in 2013. I even didn’t know where the boundaries were and I would sometimes even find myself campaigning in the neighbouring constituency,” Susan recollects. However, the loss did not kill her political dream which was by now fully ignited. Actually, from an early age, she had loved politics. Like a sleeping giant rousing from a long stupor, her political dream was now fully awake and she hasn’t looked behind.

With the establishment of County Assemblies, Susan set out to vie as the first-ever County Assembly speaker for Nakuru. With the guidance of MPs David Gikaria and Kimani Ngunjiri, she threw her hat into the ring and this is where her political skills first came into play. This time around, and numerous times after, the scion of Kihika has proven herself to be an astute political tactician and strategist. Similarly, over the five years that she was the county Assembly speaker, she showed the world that she was no pushover.

Achievements as Nakuru County Assembly Speaker

“We used to see her as a weak Speaker probably due to her small stature. We considered her an inexperienced political figure and we imagined that we could manipulate her. But she proved us all wrong and we learnt our lessons the hard way,” says a former MCA who served under Speaker Kihika.

While she was a speaker, she also served as the Vice-Chair of the County Assemblies Forum (CAF). This is a body that brings together the speakers and MCAs across the country and acts as their lobby group. in the early days of her tenure as a speaker, MCAs could only earn a gross salary of Kshs. 79,000. She was among those who lobbied for the increase arguing that underpaying MCAs “would make them susceptible to being compromised.”

The County Assembly of Nakuru, led by Susan Kihika, was instrumental in setting the pace for devolution to take root in the County. They made laws, passed rules and made it easy for devolution to work.

It was also during her tenure that the construction of Ugatuzi Plaza which was officially opened by President Kenyatta in 2019 was started.

Ugatuzi Plaza, Nakuru
Ugatuzi Plaza at the Nakuru County Assembly. It was a project initiated by Susan Kihika while she was the speaker

There were many intrigues during that period. As Susan set out to create laws that would govern and operationalize devolution in Nakuru, some disgruntled quarters tried to destabilise her albeit unsuccessfully.

In 2014, an impeachment motion was brought against Speaker Susan Kihika. The speaker was accused of among other things “failing to discharge her duties impartially.” The motion was however defeated.

When she decided to vie for senate, there were many who again tried to put hurdles along her path. When the President and his deputy appointed her to lead the Presidential campaigns in South and Central Rift, many seasoned politicians in the county came out guns blazing to fight her. It was at this point that her relationship with Hon. Kimani Ngunjiri took a turn for the worse. Although their relationship was to improve later, it has been a matter of on and off. Some other politicians although not as outspoken have lived with that grudge to date probably not accepting the fact that Susan Kihika, a greenhorn politician in their eyes, has emerged as such a strong and influential political player in Nakuru.

Susan Kihika got cleared by IEBC to vie for Senator in May 2017. Shortly after, she had to face another hurdle when the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal (PPDT) ruled that she couldn’t run. According to her accuser, she was not qualified to run since she had not resigned as Speaker. Her accuser was the same MCA who had brought an impeachment motion against her. The accuser was herself vying as an independent. The ruling by the PPDT was however trashed by Judge George Odunga.

“The tribunal did not have jurisdiction to interpret the law, hear, and determine the matter,” said Justice Odunga. “Ms Kihika is the Jubilee nominee for the seat. The decision made on June 12, 2017, must be null and void and is, therefore, quashed,” ruled Odunga.

Plush campaign

 

Senator Susan Kihika’s campaign for the senate was one of a kind. From the end of 2016, several colourful billboards bearing the name and beautiful portrait of candidate Susan Kihika dotted the Nairobi Nakuru highway. The billboards caused a sensation among the youth of Nakuru who would discuss Susan Kihika’s charm and beauty endlessly on their social media platforms.

Apart from the billboards, Susan Kihika’s posters and other campaign materials could be found in every part of the expansive Nakuru County.

“We know her already. We already feel her presence and will vote for her,” voters would declare from even the furthest corners of the county.

She was among the 23 women who went into nominations seeking to vie as senator under the respective parties. After the nominations, she was among the 17 women who went into the general elections seeking to be elected and she ended up being one of the only three women elected senators in 2017.

It was during these campaigns that SK proved her indefatigable nature. It was not a surprise for her to hold up to five campaign rallies a day many kilometres apart. Remarkably, she would always look fresh at every rally as she engaged the people and addressed their issues. She got along well with the young and old respectively. The young ones could easily relate to her easy-going nature while the elderly held nostalgic memories of her late dad who had helped resettle thousands of them after independence. He had done this through the gigantic land buying company, Mutukanio – Ngawataniro Land Buying Company.

Undoubtedly, Susan Kihika was the most popular candidate in Nakuru in 2017. Even the opposition supporters asserted their love and support for her. At one stop in Olkaria ward (Naivasha), which has been an ODM zone for many years, the residents promised to elect her senate but vowed to give their presidential votes to the ODM candidate.

“We can assure you Susan that we shall unreservedly give you our votes. However, we cannot promise the same for the presidential seat as we must give that to baba (Raila),” a speaker had said to her.

Come to the elections on August 8, Susan Kihika was one of the super winners. With a total of 669,550 votes, she had amassed a whopping 89.6% of the votes cast for the senate seat. In Nakuru, no other candidate had such a high number of votes.

Getting Down to Business

In the Senate, Susan Kihika was among the four others who had applied for the seat of the Deputy Speaker. However, elections were not held and instead, the party leadership called for a parliamentary group meeting and through compromise, the Senate deputy speaker’s seat went to Kithure Kindiki. Senator Kihika became the Majority Whip deputised by Irungu Kang’ata.

Shortly after the elections, into Jubilee’s second term, things fell apart in the ruling party. Two opposing factions arose with one supporting the Deputy President and his bid for Presidency in 2022. The other faction believes that Deputy President Dr William Ruto has squandered his opportunity to take over from Uhuru.

Ever the stickler in the rule of justice, Senator Susan Kihika has chosen to be on DP’s side christened Tangatanga by the haters. The other side nicknamed Kieleweke has the President’s favour which saw Susan and her colleagues in Tangatanga getting punished. Susan, Kindiki, Murkomen among others were de-whipped from their house positions. Others who supported Ruto have had cases brought against them. As one blogger aptly put it, “You cannot afford to support the Deputy President if you’re corrupt. Charges will be brought against you before you can even attend two rallies.” It, therefore, goes without saying that the legislators supporting Ruto are those without skeletons in the cupboards.

Senator Susan continues to carry on her role as Senator and as a voice for the voiceless. Apart from the Solai saga, Senator Kihika has been outspoken against the death knell cast on saw millers in Elburgon. The ban on logging left many investors bankrupt and thousands of Molo, Njoro and Elburgon residents jobless. She was also at the forefront of fighting for the rights of former employees of Timsales Limited who were sacked without a care for their rights.

One of her most trying moments was during the London Ward by-elections. While the Senator was supporting Nzuki Wachira, the area MP was supporting a candidate called Francis Njoroge. Njoroge who lost in the by-election was vying on a Jubilee ticket while Nzuki who emerged victorious vied on another party affiliated to Jubilee. The UDA party was recently rebranded with a new symbol and national officials.

The so-called deep state seemed to have fully decided to support the Jubilee candidate and Susan and her supporters had to bear several teargas attacks and intimidation in a bid to discourage them. But the untiring Susan proved once again to be a tactical strategist and her candidate emerged top.

Susan Kihika Global Leader at IPU

In early 2018, Senator Susan Kihika was elected as first Vice President of the Bureau of the Forum of Women Parliamentarians. The bureau is part of the International Parliamentarians Union (IPU). In October the same year, Kihika took over first as the acting President and later as President replacing her predecessor Hon Ulrika Karlsson of Sweden.

Social Person

Away from politics, Susan is a family and a social person who will always find time for her family, friends and her ventures outside the public life. She is a mother of two daughters, Tiffany (Tiff) and Ashley. She also engages in wheat farming.

Her husband is businessman Samuel Mburu (kiongozi) a close ally to the Deputy President. During her traditional dowry ceremony at her mother’s home, it was the Deputy President who led the negotiations for the groom.

“I have known Sam as a hardworking diligent young man for many years. He is a close friend and we have come a long way,” the DP once said in a live interview.

She has been described as an iron lady of Nakuru politics, outspoken, aggressive, no-nonsense, powerful and straight talker. While all these words could describe the lady poised to be the third Governor for Nakuru County, Susan Kihika can simply be described as an easy-going, straightforward lady who cuts no corners and values loyalty highly.

Martin Gichinga
Author: Martin Gichinga

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