Rachel Wambui Shebesh is a firebrand and arguably Kenya’s most famous female politician, whose favorite drink is a cocktail of tonic water, bitters and lime cordial.
She fought in the trenches with Raila Odinga, got nominated to Parliament, dumped him for Uhuru Kenyatta’s TNA and rebranded.
Then came Sonko, the infamous slap, a swirl of rumors that led to one question from men and women alike: Why, Shebesh, why? But the city politician, however, blames bad publicity for clouding her otherwise ‘stellar’ public service career.
“Social media can be wicked. There were times I sat down and cried bitterly. I asked myself why I had to go through some things in life, but with my family’s support, I came out stronger. If you are a person of weak character, you can easily give up. But I am no quitter,” says Rachael.
Asked how she handles damning negative publicity and how her family reacts to it, the fiery city politician, who is the daughter of a former Nairobi mayor, says she is the luckiest woman in the country because she has the most understanding husband. She says she has been able to weather storms because of her close-knit family.
“My husband is Godsend. He is an angel - I have the best husband on earth. In parliament, I work with male colleagues. That’s why I am tough. But in my home, I am treated like a queen,” says Shebesh, heaping praise on Frank, the father of her three sons.
“He is a gem without whom I wouldn’t be who I am today. My sister is my life coach who guides me, while my father is a mentor whose advice is priceless,” says Rachael, adding that her three sons had to grow up so fast and mature early when she got into politics.
The self-branded ‘Manzi wa Nai’ says she unwinds with her chamaa friends and that in difficult times, she finds solace in the Bible. “We are twelve in the chamaa. Spending time together, girl talk, and our welfare is my way of unwinding,” says Rachael.
Asked about an alleged altercation with Senator Mike Sonko, the damning nude pictures that surfaced online and the infamous assault by Governor Kidero, the Nairobi Women Rep says: “There are things I will not talk about. But one thing you should know is that politics is a very dirty game. It is not for the faint-hearted.
At times, I read things about me in blogs that get me shaking my head; unbelievable things. But I don’t respond because there are wars I don’t fight. I let God fight for me.” Nairobi’s first ever Women Representative however doesn’t consider herself rich. “Politics is expensive and even right now, I have loans I am paying. I borrow money to help people, some of them strangers.
When I get an opportunity to change someone’s suffering, I will even take a bank or Sacco loan to help. I am not wealthy, but comfortable. Whatever little I have is shared with my husband and children,” says Rachael, adding that she never misses a chance to cook for her family. “I have a lot of men around me; my husband and three sons. So I make food that can satisfy men,” she quips.
Always courting controversy, the Nairobi women representative says she does not regret joining politics.
“What greater calling can there ever be than serving people? I don’t regret one bit, in fact, I don’t have regrets in life. I just use every obstacle as a lesson and a stepping stone to greater heights,” she insists. Will she be a one-time elected MP because of the negative publicity and bad blood between her, Sonko and Kidero? “Hell, no!” she states emphatically.
“My greatest strength is turning anything negative into something positive. If I didn’t possess such strength, Shebesh would be no more. I am in politics to stay and not leaving anytime soon.”
Stay informed. Subscribe to our newsletter