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Shocking tale of Kenya's lookalikes, experts say strangers could be related

Sometime in 2020, a man bearing a striking resemblance to President Uhuru Kenyatta came into the public limelight, eliciting banter among curious Kenyans.

Michael Gitonga Njogo, a resident of Nairobi’s Umoja estate was little known beyond his immediate circle, until the day he appeared on a local TV station. His resemblance with President Uhuru Kenyatta stands out — from his eyes, body gestures, complexion, height and his deep voice.

Njogo was born in Nakuru’s Kiambogo area, where he says his parents were both police officers, and that his mother, who has long passed on, once served in Gatundu.

Michael Gitonga.

“I cannot say much about them because my mother died when I was in Class Eight, and my father had passed on a year earlier,” he said during an interview with The Standard

“My life has changed a lot because people assume that I am President Uhuru’s relative. In fact, since then I have spent a lot of money on those asking for tips.  If I meet him (Uhuru) I will ask a lot of questions,” Njogo added.

But Njogo is not alone, Nicholas Sitienie, a young man from Nandi who bears a resemblance to former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, has been turning heads whenever he goes. His chubby cheeks, medium height, complexion and gap between his upper teeth are identical to Sonko’s.

Nicholas Sitienei.

Residents of his hometown in Nandi Hills and Nairobi have on several occasions mistaken him for Sonko, while others actually believe he is Sonko’s son.

The businessman who was born in Kapsabet town says he is the only son of a single mother who is based in the United States of America and has been living with his grandmother for a long time.

“Many people refer to me as Sonko’s son or his brother and I would like to find out from the former governor if there is any possibility of truth in these rumours,” said Sitienei.

In another case, Margaret Aswani can easily pass for Margaret Kenyatta. In fact, they even share a name-Margaret.

Margaret Aswani.

Aswani has been turning many heads in the city, including those of traffic police officers who frequently salute her. Despite their many similarities, Aswani is quick to point out that they are not related. 

“My mum comes from Gatundu and my father is British. However, Margaret Kenyatta and I are not related in any way,” she told the Standard in a past interview.

“We have never sat down to talk about it, but maybe it will happen one day,” says Aswani. However, in a rare streak of luck, she keeps brushing shoulders with the first family.

On one such occasion, President Uhuru attended a church service at Faith Evangelistic Ministry in Karen where Aswani worships. She was tasked with collecting offerings and it is here that the President spotted and greeted her.

And on a different occasion, Aswani once met with the First Lady after a national prayer breakfast.

“As she was walking out, the First Lady stopped and greeted me. She called me her twin sister,” said Aswani.

Dress codes

In yet another case, Rachel Ruto radiates a close resemblance with UDA secretary general Veronica Maina. The two women spot short hair, have similar complexion and sometimes their dress codes are similar.

Veronica Maina.

As Kenyans still debate about the semblance of Rachel and Maina, another man is swimming in the fame that comes with being a lookalike of Deputy President Wiliam Ruto. 

Arnold Cheloti Ndukuyu, IT expert from Nzoia is the spitting image of Ruto.

"I have become a household name as everyone calls me Ruto.  I have accepted it because it is nature," he said. He said that nobody calls him by his name anymore.

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition party presidential candidate Raila Odinga also has a lookalike– Meru politician Mpuru Aburi.

Sometimes back Aburi elicited debate that he is Raila’s brother giving a long history dating back to 1962.

And last week, Gordon Owino, a boda-boda rider along Ngong road, is wallowing in fame as he resembles Roots Party Presidential aspirant George Wajackoyah.

Owino has gained overnight fame, with many Kenyans milling around him and asking for handouts.

And just like Wajackoyah, Owino supports the legalisation of marijuana. He argues that if farming the crop can seal debts and reduce poverty, it should be adopted.

Gordon Owino.

“I have never smoked or dealt with bhang, but I support Wajackoyah’s thoughts about the legalisation,” he says.

Wajackoyah has also spoken on record that he does not smoke bhang.

Until the death of former President, the Late Mwai Kibaki, no one had ever seen Samuel Gicharu. Gicharu is Kibaki's look alike.

In an interview, Gicharu, whose wife shares a name with former first lady Lucy Kibaki, said his lifestyle is similar to that of the late President Mwai Kibaki.

And not long ago, a man named Jesse Kinyanjui went viral due to his close resemblance with Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.

Kenyans branded him Kalonzo’s kin judging from his hairstyle and sharp suits that the former Vice President dons on special occasions.

Stephen Gachukia from Ndunyu ya Chege in Gatanga, Murang’a County, leads a quiet life, except for the fact that he is a 'carbon copy' of Kiharu legislator Ndindi Nyoro.

In 2014, Jeff Ochieng, a Kenyan photojournalist whose close resemblance to Uganda’s Kizza Besigye put him in the limelight.

Following comparisons of his photo with that of Uganda’s opposition figure, Ochieng' received a call from Besigye requesting a meeting in early September.

“I was eager to meet him with the hope that he could shed light on my parentage, since many people had been asking me if he is my father or we are related in any way,” Ochieng narrated.

Gene sequence

Such resemblances may be the result of gene sequencing, according to experts, and not a 'philanthropic' parent as some Kenyans believe. People with close resemblance have the same gene sequence.

“Some people lookalike because they have the same gene sequence,” says Lolita Koech, who is an independent cultural anthropologist. “The American society of human genetics say people who are total strangers can share 99.5 percent of the gene sequence,”

Lolita Koech, a cultural anthropologist also explains that the sequence of the shared genes can be attributed to having a common ancestor.

Geneticist Pual Njiruh explains that the genes on human beings are more or less the same but there are those that vary in environment.

"Basically most of the genes are the same, the major genes control the main functions of the body, the survival genes that control life," he explained.

For the lookalikes, Njiruh argues that their genes depend on the environment where one lives from the time they are born.

"Although we are not related, since we are from common ancestry there may be a rare gene which can occur to people who are far from you," explained Njiruh

"Genes circulate in population only that some genes are recessive and are suppressed from generation to another but sometimes when the environment favourable they can recur," Njiruh added.