Behind Sen. Abshiro Soka Halake’s extensive career in Humanitarian Response and Diplomacy; Fund Raising; Conservation; International Trade and Investment; Strategy and Risks Management, is a politically savvy leader, activist and a crazy optimist. She talks about politics, democracy, dialogue, why she’s the Chairperson of CMD-Kenya and the legacy she intends to leave.
Who is Senator Abshiro Soka Halake?
I am a KANU nominated Senator from Isiolo County and the incoming Chairperson of the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD-Kenya). In the Senate, I am the Vice Chairperson- Senate Standing Committee on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Member -Senate Standing Committee on Lands, Environment and Natural Resources.
Prior to joining politics, I was the immediate former Deputy Secretary-General of the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS). As Deputy Secretary-General for programs at KRCS I developed effective systems for resource mobilization, program implementation, reporting, disbursement and monitoring of multi-million dollar grants across Kenya. Prior to this, I was the Deputy Director of Strategy and Change at the Kenya Wildlife Service. My first job after university was with the Canadian High Commission where I held a couple of different positions, the last being as Trade Commissioner in charge of trade and investments between Kenya and Canada.
I am a mother of three children, a politician, and an activist in different social and economic sectors with Senior Management experience in various fields – Humanitarian Response and Diplomacy; Fund Raising; Conservation; International Trade and Investment; Strategy and Risks Management.
Were you born a politician? If not, when did the bug bite you?
While people may have certain character traits, strengths or values that may predispose them to certain careers, I am not sure anyone is born a politician. However, having worked in different capacities, I figured politics and policy influence is the next career progression for me. So in the search for the next challenge that would bring a bigger and more consequential change I got involved in politics.
How did your nomination come about?
I have been volunteering for my party behind the scenes for some time prior to my nomination and my party felt that I would be more effective from inside the party as an active politician than from outside as a volunteer behind the scenes and a nomination was deemed the best way for me to contribute.
How did you end up at the helm of the Centre for Multi-Party Democracy (CMD-Kenya)?
I didn’t just end up at the helm of CMD-Kenya. When the term of the previous Chairman and the Steering Committee came to an end, I offered my leadership, showcased the skills, experience, knowledge and values that I would bring to CMD-Kenya, sought and marshalled support from member party leaders, put a great team with whom I would work in the CMD-Kenya Steering Committee and this combination gave the team and I the opportunity and privilege to be elected to the leadership of the organization.
Does being the first woman to head CMD-Kenya put any pressure on you?
I don’t think so. Frankly, I have never viewed my leadership with gender lenses. But I must admit that any new leadership role does put pressure on the new leader as she or he builds new networks, builds trust, puts in place all that is required to take the organization to the next level of success.
How do you intend to juggle your responsibilities as Senator and CMD chair?
My work as Chairperson of CMD-Kenya and my political work as a Senator have a natural affinity and the linkage between CMD-Kenya and parliament is actually a win-win I believe. Strengthening our political parties, providing a platform for political dialogue to promote democratic governance is actually a shared and desired outcome for both parliament and CMD-Kenya. But I am not in this alone. I have great governance and management structures manned by great and competent Kenyans and I have great support at the Senate – actually Parliament. Secretariat does have some of the most competent people I have had the pleasure of working with. I admit I do have a full plate but I have great teams to work with. Besides, I am very organized and disciplined. I am confident it will be a fun challenge juggling both.
What legacy do you intend to leave at CMD-Kenya? Anything you may wish to have changed?
As it stands today the strategic areas of focus for CMD-Kenya include intra and interparty dialogue, party strengthening, gender and inclusivity as well as youth development. These are great areas to focus on and whether or not they evolve as our political and social-economic landscape evolves, these are areas of great opportunity for entrenching democracy and human rights. These are things that I understand and are passionate about. My team and I will strive to give this country a sustainable, modern and relevant institution that is right for our times and right for our country. That is the legacy we will work to leave at CMD-Kenya. In terms of change, yes, of course, we want to attract more partners, diversify and deepen our partnerships, attract more resources including and especially domestically and make our parties much stronger and ideologically focused than they are today.
Is there any democracy in Kenyan political parties?
Yes of course. Is it perfect? Absolutely not and this is what we will be working on as we strengthen the governance, institutional capacity and sustainability and relevance of our political parties.