Off Thika superhighway, Kenyatta Road connects to Gatundu town passing through Ichaweri village.
The village in Kiambu county produced founding President Jomo Kenyatta and his son, Uhuru Kenyatta, the fourth president. When you join Kenyatta Road, you get a sense of calm. The quiet road is expanding, indicating that big things are on the way in Gatundu.
The area is sparsely populated, with coffee farms and uncultivated tracts of land dotting the landscape, but as you travel deeper, villages such as Ichaweri appear. This village is 18km from the Thika superhighway, and while it is one of Kenya’s most well-known areas, the fame and fortunes differ sharply.
Ichaweri was a powerhouse for 24 years, but the shopping centre reeks of neglect. The Kenyatta family’s home is a prominent landmark oozing power and prosperity on one side of the road, but a forlorn shopping centre with few shops and no restaurant on the other.
You won’t be able to get a cup of hot tea with mandazi at Ichaweri shopping centre. “Go to Gatundu town or Mutomo shopping centre if you want some tea. We don’t have a restaurant. Not even a kibanda,” bodaboda rider Stephen Njeri says.
“Welcome to the famous Ichaweri,” he adds. “You must be surprised that we lack a simple investment found in every shopping centre.”
The bleak state of Ichaweri is immediately apparent upon arrival at the shopping centre. It’s common to see old and young people idling outside shops, boda boda sheds, and along the roadside.
There is no church in the village, except for a chapel inside the home that is only for the family. Ichaweri students walk several kilometres to Ikuma, Mutomo, and Kahugu-ini primary schools.
But Josephat Kuria believes his people bear some of the blame.
“Who do you blame for our village’s lack of prominent figures?” Our village does not have an artist, scholar, or other well-known residents. Why? “We, too, have some issues,” Kuria stated.
Ichaweri centre is home to only four shops, three bars, two butcheries, two kinyozis, two M-Pesa shops, and a scanning and photocopy business.
Three women parade their farm produce down the road in the evenings.