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Friday, June 21, 2024
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Ichaweri, village where Uhuru played football, danced with market women

Ichaweri, village where Uhuru played football, danced with market women

Ichaweri, village where Uhuru played football, danced with market womenIchaweri is a small village along Kenyatta Road in Gatundu South, Kiambu County. It is the rural home of two of Kenya’s presidents, Uhuru and his father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. The old Kenyatta preferred State House in Nairobi to the noisy crickets in his shags, which he often complained of reminding him of the colonialists.

The largest residential pad in Ichaweri is of course the home of the Kenyattas, its V-shaped entrance flanked by the coat of arms and two lions on either side, besides uniformed security detail.

Although there is a chapel inside, it’s from this grand home where Uhuru’s mother, one-time First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta, attends the nearby St Gabriel’s Catholic Church.

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It was at this home where over 600 school children unanimously chose Kenya’s national anthem after the Cabinet ministers were unable to select from the three composed as samples in 1963.

Besides holding Cabinet meetings here, Jomo Kenyatta also received dignitaries in his rural home, including former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in 1964 when Uhuru was playing around as a three-year-old.

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John Ndung’u, a neighbour of the Kenyattas, was 20 years old at the time. Now 74, Ndung’u recalls that Uhuru’s old guy returned to Ichaweri after he was released from house arrest in Maralal in 1961 and found his house overgrown with shrubbery and his Hudson car on rocks.

Women and children dancing in jubilation at Jomo Kenyatta’s Gatundu home after he was released from detention in 1961

Mama Ngina had been detained at Kamiti, while Uhuru’s stepsister, the late Margaret Kenyatta who died this year, was under the care of an Indian book binder in Nairobi, as Jeremy Murray-Brown informs us in Kenyatta, his 1973 biography of the first president.

Uhuru was conceived at the Kenyatta house in Maralal while Muhoho and their sister followed shortly thereafter in the years following the end of the State of Emergency.

“I was always contacted by Jomo to do the renovations at his house and I could see the playful Uhuru then ride a bike in the play field. His brother Muhoho was quite different from him because he was a quiet kid,” explains Ndung’u.

“When he was not riding his bicycle he would be carrying a ball, which he would kick so hard to the farthest end and run after it.”

Mzee Ndung’u narrates that though Uhuru was restricted from moving outside the gate, he would sometimes sneak out and join the neighbours’ kids to play football.

“It was very rare to see him playing with other kids in the village, but he would reach out to them because he loved playing football and making new friends. Mzee never got angry with him; it was evident that he was a people person and a jovial one at that. When I see him today, I’m proud of him because he has never changed.”

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