From rags to representing the wealthy in Karura

Karura MCA Kamau Thuo jumps a water stream when he met his people in the ward recently.

Life, someone said, is a journey whose only certainties are the beginning and the end. Kamau Thuo, the youngest Member of the Nairobi County Assembly (MCA), fits this definition well.

The 26-year-old Karura Ward member says his first days at the assembly were difficult as some colleagues often dismissed him because of his age but he never lost focus and a recent media report ranked him as the second most active member in the assembly.

“The good thing is the fact that our Constitution ensures that the issue of age becomes irrelevant and whether one is 18 or 70, we refer each other as fellow members or colleagues. We are equalised by the Standing Orders of the house.”

He says that he brought the very first petition to the floor immediately after the assembly was sworn in.

“I petitioned the Nairobi City County Government to compel the owners of Ridgeways Mall to expand that section of the road since their business was contributing towards traffic,” Thuo, who had to take a loan to buy his first suit after being elected, says. “The work is now ongoing and I am optimistic traffic will be eased once it is complete.”

But, he says, the real challenge to his leadership came when he had to confront the wealthy residents of Runda, who had blocked all the access roads leading into the neighbourhood for people from the surrounding areas, especially the slums.

“I became aware of this situation when I was called upon to respond to a fire emergency in Githogoro slum which has a shortcut through Runda. I was denied access at one of the roadblocks and had to use Kiambu Road, which was longer. Although I never identified myself as the MCA, I reported the incident at Muthaiga police station and decided to pursue the matter further.”

After unsuccessfully seeking audience with the Runda Residents Association, he took the matter to the floor where he demanded that the NCC remove all the barriers, an issue that he says strained his relationship with the residents of this leafy suburb, most of whom did not know their MCA until then.

“Most of the residents thought I was compromising their security when my petition to have the barriers removed went through. But I was trying to be fair to everybody since the roads are public,” Thuo, whose high school and college fees was paid by the church and well-wishers, explains. “While residents of Runda were busy complaining, those from other areas were rejoicing since they have been denied access to these roads for a very long time.”

After being “lost in the crowd” when he went to meet residents at Village Market, to being called to quell a mob that wanted to invade a piece of land whose owner once spanked him as a boy, Thuo says he had to win the people’s trust through hard work.

“The fact that I am young and from the slums made the Runda residents, apparently, believe that I would not represent their interests,” he says. “But I believe as time goes by, they will come to realise that I will represent everybody regardless of their party affiliation, race, religion or ethnicity”.

Born in Mji wa Huruma slums and raised by a single mother after the demise of his father, Thuo believes it’s the hand of God that has seen him rise from a hopeless ghetto boy to leading an area inhabited by diplomats, billionaires and a retired president.

His leadership skills were honed at Evergreen PCEA Church where he has been a deacon and youth leader for several years, organising community work like cleanups and youth workshops.

After attending Cheleta primary school, which in the heart of Runda he went on to Balkan High School before joining Kenya Teachers Training College where he acquired a diploma in information science.

Having held no official job after graduation in 2011, Thuo was dismissed as just another broke, young man and a non-starter when he plunged into politics last year.

But his slogan Ni Fiu (this is it), which has become a foundation, resonated well with the voters and he defeated serious contenders during The National Alliance party primaries.

“I wanted my victory to be a testimony to the youth that no matter where you come from as long as you rely on God, work hard and are persistent the world becomes a horizon of possibilities.”