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Irungu Kang'ata extends fairy-tale journey with governor win

Murang’a County governor-elect Irungu Kang’ata. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Murang’a governor-elect Irungu Kang’ata has embarked on the latest phase in his fairy tale political odyssey that has seen him rise from student leader to councillor to MP to senator and now governor.

Mr Kang’ata garnered 256,561 votes to emerge the winner on a United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket and succeed second-term governor Mwangi wa Iria.

His closest rival and former minister Jamleck Kamau, who was running on a Jubilee ticket, managed just 91,164 votes in his third failed attempt to lead the county.

Kang’ata, who was helped by a UDA wave, beat a crowded field although many residents said his victory was not a surprise because he was the “most qualified” candidate from the list approved by IEBC.

On Saturday at 2.30pm, Returning Officer Saumu Chirchir declared the former senator the winner to wild cheers at the county tallying centre in Murang’a town.

Kang’ata thanked voters for electing him on the basis of his honesty in undertaking development programmes since he was a civic leader in the 1990s.

“As I am declared winner, it is my sincere thanks to God and my deceased parents who always wanted me to be truthful to all that I once told outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta about the BBI,” he said.

Elected as the township councillor in his early 20s, Kangata said he will start investigations to ensure his administration streamlines county government operations starting with stocking drugs in health facilities.

He said the county should be a ‘star’ in development because it was the birthplace of veteran politicians Kenneth Matiba and Charles Rubia.

The governor-elect’s roller-coaster political career kicked off in 2002 when he was elected councillor in the defunct Murang’a Municipal Council.

At the time, he had been suspended from the University of Nairobi where he was an outspoken student activist.

Murang'a governor-elect Irungu Kang'ata. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

In 1999 he had been elected vice chair of the Kenya Law Students Society and the Student Organisation of Nairobi University. The following year he was suspended for two years for allegedly leading a strike.

He sued the university but that made things worse because his suspension was subsequently marked as ‘indefinite’.

As he cooled his heels at home unsure of his university education, he vied for the councillor’s seat and won, kicking off a political journey that has culminated with being elected the county boss.

Born in 1980, Kang’ata went to Murang’a Township Primary School (now Vidhu Ramji Primary School) between 1986 and 1993.

He attended Thika High School before gaining admission to the University of Nairobi to study for a Bachelor of Law degree.

Kang’ata rejoined university in 2003 after Mwai Kibaki’s administration granted amnesty to suspended students. He graduated in 2005 and got his practising certificate the next year after earning a diploma from the Kenya School of Law.

One of his popular legal briefs was when he represented security guard Rebecca Kerubo who was at the centre of an incident that brought down Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Barasa in 2012.

“...this was a case of David and Goliath that embedded constitutional principles of equality before the law,” he said in a past interview.