I call him Chirchir: President-elect William Ruto's rural neighbours remember the boy who was destined for greatness

Clement Kipkoech is an old friend to president-elect William Ruto. [Christopher Kipsang,Standard]

Villagers, on the other hand, describe Ruto as a simple village boy who went to school barefoot, and after completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Nairobi, returned to Kamagut as a powerful Youth for Kanu member and a vigorous campaigner for President Daniel arap Moi.

Dr Ruto's childhood friend Clement Kosgei who came to the limelight in 2016 after the President-elect publicly identified him in the presence of outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta during the burial of his younger brother Harrison Ruto, said the man who was declared winner of the 2022 Presidential election on Monday is simple and remembers all of his friends, and listens to them whenever he comes to Kamagut.

"I was born in Kamagu and went to Kamagut Primary School from 1971. That's where I met Ruto at the nursery school. I later joined Kaptel High School and Ruto went to Wareng," he recalls.

Eudiah Jebet, 74, who taught Ruto at Kamagut Nursery School in 1991 says she taught him how to write on the floor because books were expensive.

Jebet, who lives about a kilometre and half away from Ruto's parental home, says Ruto was a fast learner who would ask questions in class.

She says, together with another former nursery school teacher Paulina Korir, they taught the same children at the Sunday school.

"Ruto had a sharp memory. I was impressed by his love for the Bible. I am happy he quotes the Bible all the time because we laid the foundation."

She said: "I was anxious after the announcement of the election results because I have no radio and TV. My children took me to Sambut trading centre, where I watched the tallying and declaration. I had to return home before the announcement. I later learnt he was declared the winner."

Ms Korir who also taught Ruto in Kamagut has kept a photo she took with her former student in May 2007 when he visited the school as area MP and minister in the Grand Coalition government.

What remained of the goat after celebrating William Ruto's victory. [Christopher Kipsang,Standard]

"When he toured the school in 2007, I reminded him of his nursery school days. Ruto said the mud-walled nursery school should not be destroyed to build a modern one because it is part of history. It is still intact. I didn't imagine he would one day be the President, but he had good leadership qualities," Ms Korir, who lives in the nearby Ainapngetik village says.

Ruto's neighbour in Sugoi, John Kipkemboi, says the president-elect earned admiration from locals since his days as YK 92 political mobiliser.

When Ruto was elected MP, Mr Kipkemboi says, he ensured that he invited all his neighbours and a big number of constituents to his home on Christmas Eve, a move, he says, made him popular.

"Ruto has remained generous since the days of his youth, and that is why his neighbours are proud of him. He has never despised us, despite being a wealthy man. To us, he is just William, our neighbour," says Kipkemboi.