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The ‘sukuma wiki’ MP, Nairobi City’s youngest

By - NYAMBEGA GISESA | June 28th 2013


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It has been a difficult week for Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati who is facing allegations of intending to grab the Jacaranda Workshop, a source of income of its kind in Kenya for the mentally ill.

When he found time for an interview at the Hotel Intercontinental poolside, the 32-year-old, who is arguably the city’s youngest MP, looked battered from the cold weather and accusations from an online ‘army’ terming him “dishonourable”.

“It has been a crazy day,” he said. “But I am used to these fights. I have fought worse wars and I never give up.”

Such controversies seem to have built the political career of the man who quickly rose from a sukuma wiki vendor to become one of the most prominent lawmakers in Kenya.

When he was in Standard Two his mother asked her older sister to take the naughty boy to Mombasa to save him from likely early doom growing up in the village in Bobasi, Kisii.

A rabble-rouser, Arati went to three primary schools before he joined Suneka High School.

After primary school his brother forced him to leave the village to go to Nairobi where he joined Kenya Polytechnic to study tourism and personnel management.

Even before finishing his first year, he took the institution to court for “stealing” his victory when he vied for the position of secretary general in the students’ union.

But he won the battle for leadership when in the year that followed he was elected the students’ chairman.

While in college he sold sukuma wiki to raise funds for his fees and rent. “After graduating I got no job and I decided to go on with my sukuma wiki business,” he recalls.

It is perhaps his struggles to earn an income in a city with a high population of poor people that drives him to find a better life for his constituents.

On June 9, he launched a Kata Sukuma Competition through his Simba Arati Foundation in his constituency.

Around 263 people took part in the competition for the fastest sukuma wiki cutter in which the winner received a Sh25,000 cash prize.

“I was so shocked when the winner told me that instead of giving her the cash prize, I take her back to school to continue her studies from two.”

Lydia Wairimu, a form two-school dropout, got her wish to rejoin secondary school. Arati paid for her school fees at Lavington School.

 “I am using this competition to remind people that even small things and businesses like sukuma wiki can one day make you great and rich,” he says.

“My agenda includes improving the standards of the roads, making the constituency clean through collecting garbage and improving security.”

A staunch Seventh Day Adventist and vegetarian, Arati is a teetotaler who has no favourite quotes, does not smoke and never watches movies.

The father of one is married to a Chinese.

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