Little-known town in Meru named after late president

About five kilometres from Meru town, on your way to Embu, is a centre with a few wooden shops, named after former President Daniel Moi.

Mbursar Mbwiri, a property dealer, was a teenager when the president’s entourage reached Mwiramwanki, during a tour of Meru in the early 80s.

Accompanied by area leaders, who included late minister Jackson ‘Harvester’ Angaine (pictured), Moi was given a rousing welcome by residents who thronged Mwiramwanki, where a primary school by the same name and a few shops currently stand.

Mbwiri says after greeting area leaders the president walked to a more elevated ground, from where he was able to view the expansive area, up to Nyambene.

When he started addressing the eager crowd, which included school children and traders from the entire neighbourhood, Moi mistakenly thought he was at Kariene, which is about five kilometres ahead.

“President Moi started by telling us he was very happy to be at Kariene, yet Kariene is ahead. I think his people failed to tell him he had passed Kariene on his way here. Someone tried to whisper to him that he was at Kariene but the crowd cheered. We decided that if the president of the republic had in a rare feat stopped at unknown place and called it Kariene, then the new name of the place would be Kariene ka Moi!” said Mbwiri, a retired civil servant.

“And the new name stuck,” he said.

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Mbwiri said everything came to a standstill in the area as farmers abandoned their fields as other residents around Mwiramwanki rushed to the main road when word went round that Moi was in the area.

“Moi stopped here because he wanted to enjoy the view of Meru, which was made possible because it is on a high ground. He could see up to Nyambene Hills some kilometres away. He remarked that he could see the residents and Meru,” he said.

Sam Muthuri, a trader at the ‘real’ Kariene which is in Central Imenti, said it is an honour for Meru to have a place named after the president, because there is no other place named after him.

Diana Muthoni and Joseph Ngatu, residents of Kariene ka Moi, said they were happy that the area acquired "prominence" even though little development has taken place there over the years.

Mr Ngatu was there during that visit and he said Moi’s presence was the talk of the area long after the visit.

Rose Kananu, had not been born when Moi visited, but she says her grandmother loved recounting the event to her.

“My grandmother used to tell us how they had to stop everything to go and see the president and hear his voice. It was a big thing to see him in person, as they had only heard his voice on radio,” said Kananu.

Separately, Meru Kanu chairman Erastus Mururu and vice-chairman Kaume Micira said Moi will be fondly remembered for the projects he initiated.

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Mbursar MbwiriMwiramwanki