Fatuma Gedi, the Wajir County MP, is yet to have her best week since joining parliament two years ago. Her relationship with her male colleagues, especially those from her Northeastern region, an alleged explicit video, bribery claims in parliament, and her criticism of the county government of Wajir, led to attacks from plenty of people including her former supporters.
Fatuma has a way of attracting attention. Just two years in parliament, she has ignited controversy inside and outside the August House. She does not look and sound like other women representatives from northeastern region and is ready for a political fight with her male counterparts and she is letting everyone know about that.
Fatuma remains a controversial figure, no doubt about that. But why do her colleagues from northeastern region in parliament afraid of her?
Unlike other women legislators from the region, it is hard to dismiss Ms. Fatuma. Her controversy allowed her to dispel male political dominance. She has leant the art of Kenyan politics, and knows how to survive even with the introduction of the ‘handshake’ politics that has made life difficult for some.
For so long, she had a good rapport with the deputy president, William Ruto, until late 2018 when she cut ties with Tangatanga, a group of politicians allied to Mr Ruto and backing his 2022 presidential bid. The reason for her departure from Ruto’s camp remains unclear, but observers say it has something to do with Aden Duale, the National Assembly Majority Leader, and Isiolo County Woman MP, Rehema Jaldesa.
Fatuma and Rehema are among politicians who are too close to the deputy president, and Rehema might have gotten too close, necessitating competition for access to Ruto.
Aden Duale, a three-term member of parliament, is one of the country’s top politicians and the top most from northeastern Kenya. He is considered Ruto’s number one ally and confidant. He leads northeastern parliamentary group, and takes care of the group’s interest in the parliament as well as in the office of the deputy president.
The first-term Member of Parliament was trying to get closer to William Ruto than Duale. Unlike other politicians from NEP, she thought she did not need Duale’s approval to access Ruto. She had a direct link to his office.
In one instance, a meeting between NEP MPs and the deputy president was to take place at Ruto’s Karen office. As in the norm, the majority leader would meet the deputy president in advance for briefing. One morning, around nine, Duale arrived at Ruto’s Karen office to brief the deputy president. He found Fatuma already there, sitting with Ruto. He was baffled. Although he was the leader of the majority party in parliament, Duale felt threatened by Fatuma’s closeness to Ruto, and her access to him without his knowledge. This was the beginning of the beef between Duale and Gedi.
She dismissed Duale as a mere lawmaker during a political event in Habaswein in Wajir South early July, accusing him of trying to create chaos in an Embrace Team event. Embrace is a political grouping of women leaders who support the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, and their agenda, which they said, was uniting the country.
Duale tries to intimidate me, and I will not let that happen, she says. She claimed Daule hired a chopper for the local MP Omaar Mohamed to disrupt her event.
Fatuma, who could be described as one of Kenya’s most controversial lawmakers, came to the public attention in August 2018 when reports emerged alleging that she bribed more than 100 members of the National Assembly with 10,000 shillings to shoot down a parliamentary report.
Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa claimed Fatuma Gedi tried to bribe him. He said the Wajir County MP approached him with an envelope containing 10,000 shillings but he declined to take it. Several MPs came out accusing Ms Fatuma of bribing some of their colleagues to vote against a report on the sugar industry in the country.
But the same members of the National Assembly who made the allegations against Ms Fatuma denied making such claims when they appeared before the Powers and Privileges Committee chaired by Speaker Justin Muturi. Although they were shown television clips and newspaper cuttings quoting them making the allegation, all of them said ‘we cannot remember making such statements.’
Fatuma was caught up in another controversy after a video allegedly showing her in a compromising situation with an unidentified man was widely shared on Kenyan social media arena, which she later involved four other lawmakers. The MP implicated Eldas MP Adan Keynan, Abdihakim Osman of Fafi, Kirinyaga County MP Purity Wangui and her Isiolo counterpart Rehema Jaldesa for defaming her by circulating the video that depicted her in a sexual mood. The Wajir County MP denied she was the woman in the video.
Later, the Powers and Privileges Committee found that Fatuma coerced a parliamentary staff into providing her confidential documents, including a letter to the Clerk of the National Assembly that purported to summon the four MPs to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to record statements.
In June, the first-term Party of Democracy and Reform MP accused Wajir East MP Rashid Kassim of punching her in the face inside the parliament compound for ‘failing to allocate funds to his constituency.’ Rashid Kassim was arrested but later released by a Nairobi court after he denied hitting Fatuma in the face after posting a bail of 50,000 shillings. Fatuma appeared to have been hit in the face and bleeding from the mouth, according to a photo circulated in the media.
Some observers say she is likely to lose her seat in the 2022 elections, citing loss of support from other constituencies because of focusing too much on Wajir South compared to other areas. Since assuming office, she had launched more projects in Wajir South than in any other constituency, spending most of her office’s budget here. She appears to be the MP for this constituency. Whether she will get re-elected depends on two factors, the emergence of strong candidate from her constituency and the number of other female candidates from other constituencies.
However, Fatuma could be eyeing the Wajir South parliamentary seat, trying to become the first woman in Wajir elected from a constituency. That is why she abandoned the rest of the county and focuses too much on her home constituency of Wajir South. This worries the area MP Omaar Mohamed.
Fatuma has shown everyone she is ready for prime time and ready to fight anyone who she feels threatens her survival.