Retiree who drove Uhuru to school relives fond memories
Thursday, September 24th, 2020
- Mugo Karuga used to drive the first family’s children to school. He says a young president Uhuru loved riding his bike during holidays
- The retired General Service Unit officer says President Uhuru Kenyatta would always ensure he got a decent meal when they were at their Gatundu home during holidays and one day made his father buy shoes for barefoot school children who had visited their home to entertain the late President Mzee Kenyatta.
Mugo Karuga looks like any other retiree who has retreated to the rural village after years of service, but interactions with him reveal a man who rubbed shoulders with one of the most powerful families in Kenya.
Karuga drove President Uhuru Kenyatta to St Mary School in Nairobi on a daily basis in a limousine when he was young.
The retired General Service Unit (GSU) officer recalls how he would drive the young Uhuru, his brother Muhoho Kenyatta and sister Nyokabi Kenyatta from Gatundu to school using a Mercedes Benz 280 SE model registration number KPS 810.
Karuga’s razor-sharp memory is still intact. He recalls that when the first family was on holidays, the young Uhuru spent most of his time playing.
“Uhuru loved riding his bicycle and at times he would ask me to ride it with him and feel its comfort, which I gladly did,” Karuga now aged 77 years narrates.
Karuga says during holidays, he would be in charge of manning the gate, but Uhuru would ensure the cooks served him with decent meals.
“If there is something I miss, it is those delicious meals the first family used to serve since my young friend would never let me go hungry,” he says.
Karuga who retired in 1997 at Wanguru Police Station also remembers with nostalgia one incident where bare-footed children from a school in Central Kenya came to Gatundu to entertain the president.
“As the children entertained the first President, I saw Uhuru rush to the dais and whisper something to his father and he immediately removed his shoes to join the choir,” he said.
The grandfather who has turned to farming, Karuga recalls how the President ordered him to take the children and after entertaining him to the nearest Bata shop in Thika where they were each fitted with a new pair of shoes, including their teacher.
“Had Uhuru not done what he did, perhaps his father would not have seen the need to have the children who had entertained him fitted with new shoes,” he noted.
Karuga remembers how he used to interact freely with the then Head of the Presidential Press Unit, Kenyanjui Kariuki within Mzee Kenyatta’s Gatundu home where many delegations visited on a regular basis.
“Since I am from Kirinyaga, Kenyanjui and his friends fondly called me Nyaga, meaning, a man from Embu since our dialect is different from that of the Kikuyu community,” Karuga said.
At his rural Gatumbi village home, Karuga lives with his son Njiru who was born at the Gatundu District Hospital in 1972 soon after he was enlisted in the presidential guard squad. He joined the Police Force in 1966.
Karuga’s wife Annet Njeri says Mama Ngina Kenyatta is a kind person who was always concerned with the welfare of those who served the family at Gatundu.
Karuga now practices mixed farming on his one-acre plot where he has planted coffee, tea, macadamia trees and subsistence crops .
He says he was separated from Uhuru following the death of the founding father of the nation in 1978.
“When Moi came to power, he brought his own presidential guards and those of us who served under Kenyatta were transferred to various police stations across the country where all of us have since retired,” Karuga says.
“One thing I would desire is to meet president Uhuru and laugh with him as we did when he was young,” Karuga says.
The last time the President visited Kirinyaga County at Kianyaga, he asked the county government to arrange how I could meet him but the meeting has not happened.
Karuga is, however, grateful to the government for recognising his efforts and giving him an honour credited for his service to the first family. – KNA