I’m a self-made man: Uhuru

President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta, though he will not admit it, appears to have been groomed from an early age to rule Kenya.

In an old black and white photo in President Kibaki’s public album, a boy of about 12 is seen sneaking glances as the country’s first president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, signed a visitor’s book at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre.

The boy in a suit, sitting on a sofa next to the country’s founding father and who bore an obvious resemblance to the old man, is Mr Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta.

Also in that photo is Mr Kibaki and Mr Daniel arap Moi, who succeeded Mzee Kenyatta and was then the vice-president. That picture was taken in 1973.

The photo went viral online on March 9, this year, when Uhuru was declared President-elect after the March 4 polls. This was possibly because it has all the country’s past, current and future presidents.

But the younger Kenyatta, who is nine days away from being sworn-in as Kenya’s fourth President, considers himself a self-made man. A look at the few interviews he has given and the many public utterances he has made show him trying to shed the shadow of his father.

In his element

“My problem is the name, but I am also a person. If it were not for the reason that I stood for the presidency, people would never know me,” said Mr Kenyatta, when he appeared during theChurchill Live show.

The comedian was in his element that night. “Have you ever been arrested?” the comedian asked.

“Yes, for speeding,” Mr Kenyatta replied.

“And the police asked for your driving licence. What name did they read, the first or the second?” the comedian pressed on.

Mr Kenyatta, like the audience, was left in stitches. His first name ‘Uhuru’ means ‘liberty or freedom’.

The second name is obviously that of a big man in Kenya’s politics. In a country where political connections matter, it goes without saying that he was released.

When he tells the story of his early life, it is difficult to believe that Mr Kenyatta did not have a smooth life. He once told a story of his day in primary school, where he and his mates were bullied and beaten by Standard Seven pupils.

They all went to the young Kenyatta and told him to call his father. “How can we be beaten like this and your father is President? They put pressure on me, and asked me to call my father,” recalled Mr Kenyatta.

His mates forced him to go to a telephone booth and call his father. “I told him we’ve really been mishandled … we need help … After I had complained, I kept quiet. He told me: ‘Learn to fight your own battles’,” said Mr Kenyatta in a past talk with students.

He readily admits, in another interview, that he did not learn his politics from his father. The politics, he said, “may be in the genes”.

“I was a very young man when he passed away. I was in Form Four, so I can’t really say I learnt my politics from him,” Uhuru said.


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