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The Rise And Fall Of Joy Gwendo

Former Jubilee nominated Senator Joy Gwendo earned Ksh. 1 million per month and Ksh. 12 million annually.

In five years, the Jubilee Coalition nominee pocketed Ksh. 60 million, without having run a political campaign or representing any constituency yet she couldn’t raise money to clear the debt for which she was found guilty.

Just how did a woman who rose from an advertising executive in a local vernacular station to a Senator end up in jail? Those who know her told a local Kenyan daily that Gwendo drank and danced her way to Lang’ata Women’s Prison.

Her local was 1824, the whiskey bar along Lang’ata Road and a staggering distance from her Sh23 million house in Phenom Estate, which she purchased in 2013 using the parliamentary mortgage facility.

It is believed that whenever Congolese rhumba musician Ferre Gola’s Kamasutra song was played at the club, Gwendo would take the stage and showcase her dancing skills; closing her eyes and swaying her lakeside hips to the delight of fellow club goers.

Gwendo is also believed to have been a regular patron at The Pitstop, also on Lang’ata Road. “Her table was always full of independent women quaffing whiskey. They were a tough bunch. No man could approach their table,” said one man who once fell victim to the vicious tongue-lashing from Gwendo’s crew after he fancied one of them and offered a drink. Gwendo loved whiskey and music and it was not uncommon for her to spend lavishly in one sitting.

“I thought it was a bit too much seeing that she drank nearly every day,” reveals a friend who swilled drinks with her at 1824. She loved live Congolese music concerts and tipping musicians handsomely was common for her, besides giving generous tips to waiters to reserve her favourite seat.

Life was good and Joy Adhiambo Gwendo chewed it using a big spoon. Her five-year stint ended in 2017 when she decamped to Kisumu and ran against incumbent Shakeel Shabbir for the Kisumu East parliamentary seat on a Jubilee Party ticket. She came in third.

By then, the third-born in a family of five who was brought up in Kibera, had moved from Lang’ata to upmarket Karen in Nairobi. A friend who knows her closely says that she decamped from 1824 after losing the election. Out also went her colourful life on social media, which was previously a gallery of party pictures.

That was replaced by spiritual and inspirational quotes. Her Facebook page was deactivated after her arrest. But her dalliance with financial ruin had started a year after she entered Parliament.

A friend narrated how, in June 2014, when she was just a year old as a mheshimiwa, Gwendo desperately begged friends to loan her cash so she could clear a loan in Parliament to enable her to take another loan to finance a trip to watch the 2014 Fifa World Cup finals in Brazil with friends and the man she lived with.

Two years later, things had changed, and not for the better.

On February 20, 2016, she was not ashamed to queue, sandwiched between MCA aspirants, for handouts from an ambassador who was running Jubilee operations in Nyanza after a day-long meeting for Jubilee aspirants in Nyanza.

However, one of Gwendo’s friends is full of praise for her. “I met her in the line of duty and I saw a tough ambitious woman who could go places. We became good friends and several times, I visited her home in Chiga, met her church colleagues and even her family. They all respect and love her. Had she been in the right party, she would have become the Kisumu East MP.” she says.

Surprisingly, it’s a Sacco from the heart of her village, Kisumu East Cotton Growers Cooperative Society that hit the final nail on the coffin. She is accused of defrauding over Ksh 2 million on October 23rd 2016 from the Sacco, according to her charge sheet.

On January 22, 2018, a resigned Gwendo stood before Anti-Corruption Court magistrate Lawrence Mugambi. She had lost weight. Her lipstick was pink and smudged as if applied in a hurry.

The blonde dye on her short hair was fading, like fine dust had settled on it. Her voice was barely audible as she pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud. Thankfully, a few friends had helped her negotiate for a plea bargain with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The deal required that the former legislator pay the Sacco Sh1.7 million, but a year later, Gwendo had not met her part of the bargain. Just 18 days to Christmas, anti-corruption court chief magistrate Douglas Ogoti jailed her for two and half years.

Gwendo isn’t eligible for parliamentary service pension as she only served one term, and by the last check, sales from her 300 page Luo to English and English to Luo dictionary, can’t even fuel her silver-grey Toyota Prado.

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