On Sunday afternoon, Mwanyagetinge installed Huldah Nyamisa Momanyi-Hiltsley as its president in a COVID-19 influenced social distancing ceremony presided over by Japheth Kimaiga, the organization’s advisory committee chairman. The ceremony was streamed online for the membership via KJTV. Mwanyagetinge is the largest organized group of Kenyans in Minnesota that draws members from the state’s large Abagusii community. With the installation, she becomes the first elected female president of the organization.
Born in Nyamira County in Kenya in 1985, Momanyi-Hiltsley moved to the United States at the age of nine and was a graduate of the Class of 2004 at Robbinsdale Cooper High School in New Hope, Minnesota. She attended Bethel University in St. Paul where she received both her bachelor’s degree in International Business and an MBA. She is a recipient of The Morrill Hall and Rachel Tilsen Social Justice Award for her commitment to social justice and restorative justice practices. She works in corporate compliance at a NASDAQ listed medical device company.
Voting was conducted electronically for the first time in the organization’s history using eBallot, following online debates on KDRTV and spirited social media campaigns. Momanyi’s closest competitor was also a woman. Her success ascending to the top job came amid renewed calls for the organization to address its long-standing dominance of the top positions by men.
This was also the first time the organization installed county representatives as called for in its new constitution. The requirement for county representatives to cover the seven-county metro area in Minnesota was included in the new constitution last year to bring about better representation given that the Abagusii have spread out beyond the northwest suburbs of the Twin Cities, the hub of the burgeoning Kenyan American population in the state.
“This election has been a roller coaster, and I have been challenged and grown in ways that I would never have imagined,” Momanyi-Hiltsley said after taking the oath of office. She was alluding to the month-long campaign that was conducted mostly on social media due to the coronavirus pandemic. The campaigns on occasion degenerated to personal attacks directed at her.
Then Momanyi-Hiltsley said the support she received from the community after the election has been bipartisan regardless of the election outcome. This, she explained, was proof that Mwanyagetinge is capable of “coming together.”
“We are capable of rebuilding our community for future generations,” Momanyi-Hiltsley said. “I am privileged to lead this organization to the next level which requires all of us coming together, as I cannot do it alone and I ask my executive board to hold me accountable whenever I move in a direction that does not align to what we have pledged.”
The following is the slate of officers sworn-in on Sunday:
Amenya Amenya – Vice President
Edward Nyakeri – Secretary
Joyce Ontere – Treasurer
Chris Omare – Organizing Secretary
Edward Nyagechi – Anoka County Representative
Josephath Ogwankwa – Upper Hennepin County Representative
Reuben Nyabuto – Lower Hennepin County Representative
Elected but not sworn-in on Sunday were:
Edith Moronge – Dakota County Representative
Arnold Maruko – Ramsey County Representative
Festus Gichaba – Scott/Carver County Representative
Douglas Ndege-Omosh – Washington County Representative
The new president and slate of officers will serve a two year term.
This article has been updated since its original posting to reflect the elected officers that were not present for the swearing in.