As a young barefooted boy, Kenya’s aspiring president Kennedy Mong’are Okong’o saw himself as a defender of the weak and stood firm against any kind of injustice meted on him or his friends at school.
The hardships he encountered as a young person, he says, helped shape his future and imparted in him invaluable lessons about how to overcome life’s challenges in a just way.
His father Okong’o Omenge eked out a living as a watchman at the nearby Sironga Farmers Cooperative Society in Nyamira to feed his 12 children. The Nyamira Senator, who now wants to be Kenya’s fifth president, walked to school barefoot. He got his first pair of shoes when he was joining secondary school in 1983.
Okong’o’s father died while he was in Class Six, leaving his mother the arduous task of ensuring he and his siblings went to school.
At a tender age, Okong’o says he believed in justice for everyone, especially his schoolmates and friends. Thus he would often find himself in trouble with the teachers and was expelled from most of the schools he attended. He changed primary schools twice and went to four secondary schools — Nyansabakwa Boys, Itibo Boys, Sameta Boys and Kakamega High. He sat his A-levels at Ntana Secondary.
At times, he would run away from school for fear of being punished, especially after he had been up to some mischief; he had a profound fear for the cane and other forms of punishment.
But Okong’o is not afraid of throwing himself into the race for the highest office in Kenya, and has his sights trained on the country’s most powerful seat. Two weeks ago, the 49-year-old Okong’o launched his bid for presidency.
“I want to prove to Kenyans that one needs not to be the son of so and so to be recognised as a valid contender for presidency. I have the brains, I have the determination and I have great ideas which Kenya needs to move forward,” said Okong’o.
The father of three is confident that on August 8, 2017 he will prevail.
Okong’o has always had the ambition to be president, and this came out during his campaigns for the Nyamira senatorial seat in 2013 where he made a pledge to his constituents that he would only run for a single term then shift focus to a higher office.
The senator believes he has what it takes to unseat President Uhuru Kenyatta and “redefine the road towards recovering Kenya’s lost glory”.
Top in his agenda is tackling corruption, streamlining operations in security agencies, improving the education sector and ensuring that Kenyans have enough water and food.
Improbably, Okong’o says he will ensure all Kenyans undertake a lifestyle audit as a first step in the fight against graft.
“It is a joke that a country bragging to be ahead in technology has no register of its own assets. I will empower the Assets Recovery Agency by making sure the assets of all Kenyans is known and their records made available at the click of a button,” Okong’o said when he launched his bid.
Once the loopholes through which public money is lost is sealed, Okong’o promises to roll out free university education.
“Kenya loses more than Sh300 billion every year through corruption and maladministration,” he adds about his proposed efforts to free the country from the “captivity of divisive and ethnic-based politics”.
Okong’o holds two bachelor’s degrees from Indore Christian College in India, besides a postgraduate diploma in journalism and mass communication.
He worked as a correspondent for The Standard and Kenya Times newspapers before returning to India in 1998 for a post-graduate degree in law.
His involvement in politics began when he became the Secretary General of the Kenya Republican Reformation Party, the outfit through which he lost the West Mugirango parliamentary seat to Henry Obwocha in 2002 and Dr James Gesami in 2007.
He beat fellow senior counsel and former Law Society of Kenya (LSK) chairman Okong’o Omogeni to the Senate seat in 2013.
He is the founder of Mong’are Bw’Okong’o Education Foundation, Carewell Society and Forum for Children Rights in Kenya.
Okong’o is a cross-country and long distance runner. He says he is in the presidential race to win and believes he will cross the finish line first.
“I am a man of means and I have funds for my campaigns. I don’t want to commit a lot of money to rallies and steal public funds when I am elected to recover the money I spent during my campaigns,” he says.