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.
White House endorses Somaliland, Taiwan diplomatic ties
The United States is backing the recent diplomatic engagement between Somaliland and Taiwan, a decision that will infuriate both Mogadishu and Beijing.
The support comes barely a month after Hargeysa and Taipei announced they are opening representative offices in each other’s capital.
On July 1, Taiwanese foreign minister Joseph Wu said Taipei and Hargeysa had agreed to establish ties based on ‘friendship and a shared commitment to common values of freedom, democracy, justice and the rule of law.’
The two sides have signed agreements in February 2020, but only made the details public in July. According to the agreement, the new relationship will focus on agriculture, education, energy, fisheries, health, information and communications, and mining.
“Great to see Taiwan stepping up its engagement in East Africa in a time of such tremendous need. Taiwan is a great partner in health, education, technical assistance, and more,” the US National Security Council said in a tweet.
The National Security Council is the principal forum used by the US President for consideration of national security, military and foreign policy with senior national security advisors and cabinet members.
The move by the US will enrage China, which says the People’s Republic of China represents ‘whole of China’ on the global stage.
China describes Taiwan as the most sensitive issue in its ties with the United States.
While the United States has no official relations with Taiwan, the Trump administration has ramped up backing for the island, with arms sales and laws to help Taiwan deal with pressure from China.
Taiwan is claimed by China, which sees the island part of its own territory. Beijing says the island could be brought l under its control by military force if it deems necessary. In elections and public opinion surveys.
Somaliland is a self-declared republic which broke away from the rest of Somalia in 1991 when a coalition of clan militia toppled President Siyad Barre.
Although no country recognises Somaliland, it has an effective government system; has its own currency, a central bank, police, army and other state institutions.
Only 15 countries recognise Taiwan as an independent nation.
Somaliland is located in one of the most strategically contested parts of the world – The Horn of Africa. The region serves as a political and cultural bridge between Africa and the Middle East and borders the Red Sea — a gateway to the Suez Canal and a vital corridor for maritime trade.
Kenya to reopen places of worship next week
Kenya will reopen its places of worship in four phases beginning Tuesday next week, the Interfaith Council looking into opening of mosques, churches and temples has recommended.
However, there are guidelines to be met before the reopening takes place. These include; hand-washing, wearing of proper face-masks at all times, practicing social distancing, no more than one hour service, attendance of not more than 100 people at a time and people aged above 58 years of age should not be allowed in.
The council, working with the ministries of health of interior, said it had meetings where it received views from various religious leaders on how places of worship would begin operating in compliance with health safety rules.
Kenya closed mosques, churches and temples mid March after the country recorded the first few cases of COVID-19.
Somalia has a ‘man problem’, and it needs to fix it
This week, a group photo of director-generals of government ministries appeared on social media. The director-generals were 22, all men. Somalis asked, where are the women? No one in government bothered to answer that question.
While there are an uncountable number of professional Somali women, the photo gave the impression that there are no women who are qualified to hold this kind of work.
Somali women are under-represented in every sector of the society: economic, social and politics. The minimum quota for women in parliamentary representation is 30 percent, but this has not been achieved yet: women have just 24 percent of seats.
Although this is an improvement, women were not involved in the initial stage of the election. Currently, the Somali politics is a clan-based which requires male traditional elders to select delegates which would in turn elect members of parliament. Even if the country goes for a direct election, women will still face the same challenges.
Women rights are some of the many casualties of a three-decade old civil war in Somalia that followed the collapse of the last effective central government in 1991.
Somalia is now ranked the fourth most dangerous country to be a woman and the endless civil war continues to fuel violence against women.
The government has taken positive steps to create laws that guarantee women their rights, doing away all forms of discrimination in employment, politics and education. The problem is it has not been implemented.
For example, in 2016, the cabinet proposed a bill, known as the National Gender Policy, and sent it to parliament for approval. It is still lying there. If passed, we do not know when, women will the legal rights to earn as much as men and to run for political office, including the presidency.
A number of women have declared their interest to stand in the last presidential election, but withdrew their candidacy due to threats from al Shabab group and other sections of the society.
Islamic scholars as well as ordinary Somalis condemned the bill. They said it promoted Western culture by granting “excessive” rights to women, and some even thought it endorses same sex relationships.
Al Shabab, which is fighting to overthrow the government in Mogadishu, has also condemned the gender policy at the time, saying it “promotes Western culture.” A pro-Al-Shabab website Somali Memo reported the policy under the headline: “Somali government passes law legalising same sex marriage.”
The country’s top Islamic body, the Somali Religious Council, reacted to the proposed gender policy bill. “It is a dangerous policy, which has nothing to do with Islam,” said Sheikh Bashir Ahmed, the council chairman.
It is a recipe for rebellion against their parents and husbands; a situation that is likely to weaken Muslim society, the council’s chair said.
In an interview with Radio Shebelle, Ahmed accused the peacekeeping force Amisom – African Union Mission in Somalia – of promoting the policy by helping organise women conferences. This prompted Information Minister Mohamed Mareye that Amisom was not involved in policy making.
Social media users reacted too, with many contributors mistaking the “gender equality” to mean same sex marriage.
The Somali Religious Council later said it supports the bill after consulting the government, although it insisted the policy gives ‘excessive right’ to women.
In 2013, a court in Mogadishu handed a six-month jail sentence to a 19 year-old woman who said members of the country’s security forces raped her. Two journalists who reported the rape were also jailed for “defamation and insulting state institutions.” Reporting on rape is one of the most sensitive topics in the conservative Horn of Africa nation due to culture and social stigmas.
And in 2018, al Shabab killed a woman they accused of being married to 11 women at the same time. They buried her neck-deep and stoned her to death at a public square in southern town of Sablale. Victims of al Shabab brutality do not get fair legal representation at al Shabab “Islamic courts”.
These are just examples, a big number of Somali women continue to suffer the same way.
Until the government changes its behaviour toward women and women in parliament and outside of it speak up for their rights, more than half of Somalia’s population will continue to suffer in injustice.
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