August 9

How Kiraitu Murungi rose from being homeless to becoming political powerhouse with Harvard Master’s degree

Monday, July 11th, 2022 12:37 | By
Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi. PHOTO: Courtesy
Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi. PHOTO: Courtesy

Despite carrying a big name in the political arena, the current Meru governor Kiraitu Murungi was once homeless and grew up in abject poverty. He narrates his life history to our writer DORCAS MBATIA.

The politician narrated to the writer the agony and challenges he went through as a child before rising to fame and amassing wealth.

Born in January 1952 at Kionyo village in South Imenti, Kiraitu is described by many of his family members, schoolmates, and villagers as a humble, intelligent, fearless, and go-getter who worked hard to liberate himself and his family from poverty.

He is the first born in a family of 18 children.

The soft-spoken politician who is also full of humour revealed that their father Daniel Kiraitu M’Mwarania who was the only breadwinner to his two wives and many children was earmarked as one of the colonial system rebellious, and as a result, at some point, their house was torched.

“We used to live well despite challenges that were occasioned by poverty but the worst moment was when our house was burnt by unknown people when Mau Mau war broke up and everything, we had was destroyed leaving us homeless,” Kiraitu said.

The seasoned politician whose dream was to become a journalist and a Deejay before landing into law schools said they were forced to spend sleepless nights in the cold before they sought refuge in a relative’s home in Kanyankine.

“It was traumatizing that my mother hid us in the bush for some days before we found refuge at a relative’s place where we stayed for some years after our father ran to the forest to join other Mau Mau fighters,” he added.

Meru governor Kiraitu Murungi during the interview at his home in Nkubu ,Imenti South. PHOTO/Dorcas Mbatia

He continued to say the circumstance forced him to delay enrolling in school adding he waited for his father who he did not see for a couple of years to take him to school.

“My father left when I was young and my mother (Anjelica Daniel) kept on telling me to wait for him so he could take me to school so I used to help in herding the cattle until one of my relatives sympathized and took me to school,” he added.

Kiraitu who went to Kairiune Primary school up to Class Four before he was expelled after his father failed to honour the Head Teacher’s summon later joined Kionyo Primary school, said upon his father's arrival from the forest after participating in fighting for independence, they moved from their refuge and settled in their current home in Kionyo after he was landed a job as an Agricultural Officer in Igembe North.

Governor Kiraitu Murungi addressing a function in the past PHOTO/Courtesy
Governor Kiraitu Murungi addressing a function in the past PHOTO/Courtesy

The veteran and one of the longest-serving politicians in the country said he further joined Chuka Boys and Alliance High school for his A-levels before joining the University of Nairobi where he pursued a degree in Law and a Master’s degree in the same institution in 1977 and 1982 respectively.

“I wanted to become a journalist and not a lawyer but I had no option because those days, the university offered Law and Bachelor of Education only,” he added.

Backing him, one of his close allies Alhaji Mwendia who spoke to the writer said Kiraitu was a bright student and respected the youth who also attracted the village with his deejaying skills.

The county boss is married to Priscilla Murungi and both are blessed with four children.

He began his political career when he joined other opposition leaders like Raila Odinga, Paul Mwite, Gitobu Imanyara, and Kenneth Matiba among others during late president Daniel Arap Moi’s regime in championing multiparty democracy in Kenya.

In the fight for human rights, Kiraitu was one of the people who flew to Ethiopia to push for the adoption of the African Charter for the rights of children. He would later go to exile for about three years when he was being sought by the government.

As a blessing in disguise, while in exile, he joined Harvard University to further his education.

“I was idle while in so I applied to join Harvard University where I pursued Masters alongside studying political science after I got a sponsorship from The Funds for Global Human Rights (FGHR),” Kiraitu said.

While in Harvard, Kiraitu who still portrays a deep Meru accent despite schooling in the prestigious school, said it was difficult for him to adopt the western culture since there was notable discrimination by some Whites who did not like to freely mingle with Blacks.

He also noted that at some point, he met former US President Barack Obama at the school. They shared a class on International Law and they became friends.

“Obama was friendly. He really wanted to know so much about Kenya,” he added.

After coming back to Kenya in 1992, he vied for the South Imenti parliamentary seat and won on a FORD ticket and later served for 10 years as the area MP.

He is the only politician who has never lost an election in Meru.

The former Minister for Justice and Constitution Affairs has been lauded by many for initiating various developments which include Agriculture, Water, Health, Trade Infrastructure, and Tourism sectors in the region a move that saw him elected as the Meru senator in 2013 and governor in 2017.

The county chief who is the author of three books; In the Mud of Politics, the song of My beloved, and latest Beyond Politics, is now seeking re-election for the Meru gubernatorial seat.

He is expressing confidence that he will defeat his opponents; Women Rep Kawira Mwangaza and Senator Mithika Linturi.

Speaking on their prolonged beef with Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, Kiraitu said their difference is growing wider noting he is almost giving up on their reunion.

“My difference with Munya is on political and not personal level. I have tried my best to mend fences with Munya to no avail.  I have even sent Njuri Ncheke in vain because we need to get unified as Meru leaders.

“Even president Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga have both called us severally and spoken to us but all in vain because we agree to unite but after we step out of the door, things change. I have no problem with him but I think I’m almost giving up on this. Let everyone use his own ways to look for Azimio votes because we are both campaigning for Raila,” Kiraitu added.

ODM leader Raila Odinga oversees a handshake between Meru governor Kiraitu Murungi and Agriculture CS Peter Munya at a past event. PHOTO/Courtesy
ODM leader Raila Odinga oversees a handshake between Meru governor Kiraitu Murungi and Agriculture CS Peter Munya at a past event. PHOTO/Courtesy

Kiraitu who is also campaigning for Raila said he decided to abandon Deputy President William Ruto after listening to his heart and listening to the president.

“Yes, I was a great supporter of Ruto but there is no crime in political change and I’m not embarrassed because Ruto’s politics and mine are different,” he added.

“Ruto as a person is warm and friendly but politics has got its own rules and measures. You have to calculate your own interests because I believe Mt Kenya is safe under the hands of Raila and not Ruto,” he explained.

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