Jeriter Mutinda Mutisya, a businesswoman and politician with albinism, recounts the online abuse she faced during her 2022 campaign for the Member of County Assembly seat in Machakos County, Kenya.

Kenyan Politician with Albinism Battles Online Abuse, Championing Change

By Maryanne W. Waweru

Jeriter Mutinda Mutisya, 49, is a businesswoman based in Machakos, in Kenya’s eastern region. Jeriter runs enterprises in the hospitality and real estate industries. 

Jeriter, a wife and mother of two sons aged 24 and 18 years old, is a woman with albinism. 

Passionate about creating change in her community through leadership, Jeriter vied for an elective post in Kenya’s last general elections in 2022. She contested the Member of County Assembly (MCA) seat for Mumbuni North ward, Machakos town constituency, Machakos county. 

This is an anthology of stories under the title “Narratives of Strength and Survival ” that is aimed at documenting the lived experiences of Kenyan women and girls who have faced Online-gender-based violence at a personal level.

During her campaigns, Jeriter used a combination of strategies to convince voters that she was the best candidate. These included door-to-door knocks, various public engagements, and passing on messages through different online platforms.

In Kenya and around the world, among the most targeted populations for online gender-based violence (OGBV) are high-visibility women such as politicians and journalists. 

Additionally, traditionally marginalized populations, such as women with disability, are even more vulnerable to this type of abuse. 

It is, therefore, a ‘double tragedy’ for a woman politician with a disability, such as Jeriter. Jeriter shares her experiences with OGBV in this article, specifically during the 2022 campaign season.

Ready to face my political rivals

“Of the ten candidates vying for the Mumbuni North ward MCA seat, I was the only woman. Though it was a challenging undertaking, it was one that I was fully prepared for. As a woman who has lived with disability all her life and who has, on numerous occasions, bore the brunt of untold prejudice, ignorance, and stigma from society, I was ready for the political battle.  

I began my campaigns about seven months before the election date. I remember putting all my passion and energy into selling my manifesto to residents of Mumbuni North ward, who were my core target population. 

As weeks and months went by, I was informed that word on the street was that I was one of the favourite candidates who was tipped to win the seat. I was happy. All was going well for me until it didn’t. 

Targeted for my body parts

Three months to the election date, when campaigns usually hit their peak and it’s make or break for political candidates, I started observing something odd.  

I suddenly noticed an upsurge in online comments targeting me, discrediting my ability to take on a leadership role in the Mumbuni North ward. 

The comments, which would be posted on various social media platforms with huge followings, would read:

“You are a disabled woman. Of what value are you? What good can a woman with disability do for the community? Go and lead fellow people with disability (PWDs). That’s where you belong!”

Jeriter, you are almost blind because of your albinism, so how will you see your constituents? You are wasting your time.”

The comments would be posted on popular Facebook groups whose membership included thousands of voters in Mumbuini North ward and the wider Machakos county. They would be ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ numerous times, thus reaching even more people.

Threatening comments

Sadly, the nature of the comments would only get worse. 

They would tell me that as a person with albinism, my body parts and organs had the potential to make them rich. 

In many parts of Africa, especially East and Southern Africa, people believe that the organs of people with albinism have magical powers that can bring them untold wealth and fortune. 

These ‘mystical powers’ are believed to cure diseases, enable one to win elections, make businesses succeed, and nourish love affairs. We have had cases of people with albinism tracked, killed and their organs sold to local witch doctors who, in turn, sell them for thousands of dollars.

The people who commented would write: ‘Jeriter si unajua wewe ni rangi ya pesa’ (Jeriter, you know that you are the colour of money). Since you are tall and heavily built, your body parts would fetch us lots of money. 

Such comments would make me feel very nervous as I feared for my life. Faceless people behind their computers and mobile phones were openly putting into words the greatest fears that Africans with albinism have. It scared me because with online people, you can never really know the extent of their seriousness and if they will actualize their threats.

The interesting thing about online abuse is that people dare to say whatever they can because you cannot see them. Since many of the comments came from people with pseudo accounts, it could even have been a neighbour or a friend making them, but there was no way of me knowing. 

Competitor’s use of ‘keyboard warriors’

During the campaign season, there were days I would wake up early, ready to hit the campaign trail. For a better strategy, I log on to social media to keep up-to-date with the latest developments and conversations. 

I also check how my followers responded to the posts I had made the previous day that promoted my campaign. 

However, my heart would become heavy as I read what people said about me. The disheartening comments made by ‘keyboard warriors’ –who I believe were on the payroll of my competitors, mostly centred on my candidacy as a woman with disability. 

The nasty comments would demoralize me and kill my energy for the day. I would be left feeling so deflated that I would shelve my campaign plans for the day, opting to stay in the house instead, mulling over what I had read. I would spend endless hours deleting the negative comments.

Meanwhile, my family, relatives and friends would also read the comments. They had to keep defending me, which left me questioning why I was putting them through that kind of agony. I felt that I was not being fair to them.

Receiving private messages of hate

On my personal Facebook page (where I have over 4.9k friends), I would accept friend requests from people I didn’t know but with whom we had many mutual friends. Once I accepted them, they would then be able to message me or comment on my posts. 

I would receive hundreds of inboxes on my Facebook Messenger from ‘friends’. Some would be positive, while many would be abusive.

The negative messages would be vile and hateful, making me ask myself: ‘What am I doing, and is it worth it? Shouldn’t I just quit this race?  

Unfortunately, the negative comments hurt my candidacy. 

Comments such as this one:

“Don’t vote for Jeriter because she has been promised an automatic nomination as a PWD, so don’t waste your vote. With her direct ticket already in her pocket, she’s just spoiling the votes of the other candidates.”

This propaganda planted seeds of doubt in the minds of my voters, damaging my popularity. There were people I had convinced to vote for me, but after reading such comments, they would vote for someone else, not knowing that this was just disinformation. 

This was evidenced when they would comment on my posts or send me messages saying that since I had already secured a seat through direct nomination, then they would give my vote to their second-best candidate.

I would spend hours and days trying to convince them that those were lies being peddled by my competitors, but it was all in vain. I realized that, sadly, the damage had already been done. 

I believe that I lost about 40% of my would-be voters through this fallacy.

Taking social media breaks 

When I would start feeling that my mental health was taking a hit, I would take regular social media breaks, which would last about a week.

Unfortunately, I would return online only to read comments about how I had thrown in the towel and was no longer in the race! I was shocked. The keyboard warriors had outdone themselves in selling even more lies to the voters.

As a woman politician, I understood that you must have a thick skin. You need an even thicker skin as a woman politician with disability. 

Despite all these tribulations, I soldiered and reached the ballot box, where I emerged in second place.

Reporting online perpetrators 

I never reported any abusive incident to the police because I reckoned it would be pointless. The abusers and propagandists used pseudo-accounts, so how would they be found? Who exactly would I have been reporting?

In any case, even if they had been tracked, they would have easily denied that it was them, instead claiming that their accounts had been hacked. They would then have been released for lack of evidence.

On Facebook, I once reported two individuals, but I did not see any impact. One of the individuals was suspended for a few hours, then returned to continue trolling me from where he had left off. Another one opened a new account and continued discrediting me. 

Evidence of prosecuted offenders 

Though Kenya has some policies and legislation around online abuse, I believe they should be regularly updated to keep up with the ever-evolving abusive behaviour of online users. 

We have seen some people end their own lives after experiencing online violence. Some have been extensively harmed mentally, emotionally and even psychologically.  

It would be good if there were documented cases of people who have been prosecuted for cyberbullying. We need to see successful cases of people arrested, tried in court, found guilty and jailed for such offences. This will make people think twice about spewing abuse online.

Future political plans

Am I willing to put myself out in the race for a political seat in the future, based on all the tribulations that I went through? Maybe yes, maybe no. Only time will tell.

Maryanne W. Waweru conducted this interview as part of KICTANet and APC’s Our Voices Our (OVOF) work. This anthology of stories under the title “Narratives of Strength and Survival” is aimed at documenting the lived experiences of Kenyan women and girls who have faced online gender-based violence at a personal level. 


  1. Navigating the Digital Battlefield: Wanjiku Thiga’s Experience in Kenya’s 2022 General Election
  2. Private: Hated, but Unafraid: Living with HIV in the Age of Online Hate
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  4. Behind the Newsfeed: The Chilling Tale of a Journalist Hunted by Her Own Story



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