Kenya’s National Assembly has shot down a report on sugar importation that cost the government 100m dollars in taxes and exposed consumers with health hazards.
Some MPs who supported the report tabled before the House on August 9 claimed members were bribed to kill the report which implicated two cabinet secretaries and other sugar barons.
The report recommended Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich and his Trade counterpart aden Mohamed and former Agriculture secretary Willy Bett investigated for the role they played in the alleged importation of sugar laced with copper and mercury.
And at the centre of this bribry claims is a first term woman member of parliament from Wajir County in northeastern Kenya.
Fatuma Gedi is the second woman member of parliament ever elected from Wajir. She was elected in August 2017 on a PDR ticket, a small party affiliated to the ruling Jubilee party. One year later, she is at the centre of bribery claim involving members of the National Assembly. She was alledged to bribe more than 150 of her colleagues with 10,000 shillings – equivalent of 100 dollars – to reject the sugar report – and she was successful.
Ms Gedi completed her primary education in 2000 at Wajir Primary School and proceeded to NEP Girls High School in Garissa where she left in 2004. She holds a Higher Diploma in Public Relations from Regional Institutes of Business Management.
She was the URP Women League chair between 2014 and 2016. She contested for Wajir County Woman MP in 2013 and finished third.
She is among four elected female lawmakers from northeastern counties. Only one of them, Safia Noor, was elected as a member of the National Assembly representing a constituency. The rest represent counties.
In 2010, Kenya’s new constitution introduced reserved seats for women, mandating every county to elect one woman representative, giving opportunity to women like Gedi in northeastern Kenya where they are excluded in political leadership.
She is one of the few active women lawmakers within and without the parliament. And she is not new to controversy.
Early this year, she called Baringo senator Gideon Moi – a son to former President Daniel Moi – “undisciplined” for visiting Garissa “without the permission of House Majority Leader Aden Duale”, prompting Somali elders to apologise to Moi family.
Gideon Moi is seen as a political rival to Deputy President William Ruto. Both Ruto and Moi Jr are eyeing the presidency after President Uhuru Kenyatta exists the stage in 2022.
Ms Gedi is a close ally of Mr Ruto and backs his 2022 candidacy.
In July, the Wajir lawmaker had a fight with Tiati MP William Kasait who supports Moi’s bid for the presidency. Sources said she “could not tolerate remarks by Kasait who had asked why the woman rep is backing the DP’s bid to replace President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House when his term officially ends.”
Sources also said Kasait received a thorough verbal attack from the Wajir lawmaker who is claimed to have almost bashed him with a sugar bowl.
Just a year into the parliament, Ms Gedi is already at the centre of so many controversies including this latest one involving the larliament. bribery claim. The first time MP denied the accusations by a section of MPs and the media.
“It’s untrue that some of us were compromised, in fact, what we did was to mobilise our colleagues to shoot down the report as it unfairly implicated our Cabinet secretaries,” she told The Star.
Gedi, who describedd herself as a woman of “impeccable character”, said she and other lawmakers only mobilised their colleagues to reject the report. She said the two cabinet secretaries had nothing to do with the importation of contraband sugar.
Ounde Mudenyo, MP for Funtula in western Kenya where sugar farming is common and sugar industries are located, said his colleagues failed to read the report.”MPs never bothered to read the report.
They only checked the recommendations and when it touched the sacred cows, they decided to shoot it down,” he said