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50 personalities who shaped Kenyan headlines in the last decade

By Dominic Omondi | January 2nd 2020

From landmark rulings to historic wins, the last 10 years were marked by several firsts for the republic.

Justice Grace Mumbi Ngugi.

1. Justice Grace Mumbi Ngugi: Made a ruling in July 2019 that barred Governors facing trial from accessing their office. A precedent setting ruling that some activists and lawyers want extended to other lower political offices:

2. Noordin Haji: Director of Public Prosecutions who, together with Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti, have made the fight against graft their top priority.  The two have since overseen the prosecution of high-profile Government officials, though they are yet to win a conviction.

3. George Kinoti:  Together with Haji, Kinoti has dedicated much of his 12-months in office going after some fat-cats in Government who he believes have bankrupted the country.

4. Samantha Pendo:  Fondly known as Baby Pendo, the six-month-old infant, who died in the skirmishes that followed the 2017 polls has come to symbolize ugliness of police brutality. She died of internal injuries after being clobbered by police while in her mother's arms.

Eliud Kipchoge celebrates after crossing the finish line at the end of his attempt to bust the mythical two-hour barrier for the marathon on October 12 2019 in Vienna. - Kipchoge holds the men's world record for the distance with a time of 2hr 01min 39sec, which he set in the flat Berlin marathon on September 16, 2018. He tried in May 2017 to break the two-hour barrier, running on the Monza National Autodrome racing circuit in Italy, failing narrowly in 2hr 00min 25sec. (ALEX HALADA / AFP)

5. Eliud Kipchoge:  He managed to run a marathon in under two hours, a record-breaking feat.

6. The Akashas: Kenyan drug lords, the Akasha brothers, were sentenced to 25 years in prison in the United States for exporting heroin into the country.

Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Atul Shah of the Nakumatt Holdings during NEMA’s demolition of Ukay Centre a four storey building illegally constructed on wetlands, riparian areas. August 10, 2018. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

7. Atul Shah and the fall of Nakumatt:  Atul Shah, started what would become the region’s largest supermarket. He would also oversee its fall.

President Uhuru Kenyatta (C) his deputy William Ruto (L) and Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga during the launch of Building Bridges Initiative report at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on November 27, 2019. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

8. President Uhuru Kenyatta:  The fourth President of Kenya, having succeeded Mwai Kibaki. By the time he was being voted in, he had been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. First head of state under the new Constitution.  

9. Deputy President William Ruto- Ruto, like Kenyatta, also had to face the Hague-based court to answer to crimes against humanity charges following the post-election violence of 2008. He was the first deputy President under new Constitution.

10. Raila Odinga: His supporters would like to call him an enigma, as the title to one of his biographies described him. But having lost in four elections, his critics think he is a spent force. Nonetheless, Odinga continued to define Kenya’s politics into the last decade.

11. CBK Governor Patrick Njoroge:  Under Patrick Njoroge, the Central Bank of Kenya has tightened regulations some of which have seen the collapse of two banks, with another being acquired after it went into receivership. It was also during his time that the old Sh1,000 note was withdrawn from circulation.

The late Safaricom CEO, Bob Collymore. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

12. Bob Collymore: The late Safaricom CEO, might have found a telecommunications company that was already on its feet, but he gave it wings. He presided over the expansion of M-Pesa, to become a platform for borrowing as well as buying and selling goods and services.

13. Kenyatta National Hospital doctors: Doctors at one of the region's largest referral hospital last year successfully reattached the severed hand of 17-year-old Joseph Thairu from Kiambaa, Kiambu County. Other surgeons at the same hospital also successfully separated conjoined twins.

14. Wanyama/Mariga/Olungah: This is decade when a number of Kenyan soccer players played top flight football in major European leagues, including English Premier League, Laliga and Serie A.

Jude Njomo during an interview on bank Interest rates. August 12, 2016. [Felix Kavii, Standard]

15. Jude Njomo-  Jude Njomo, the MP for Kiambu Central, will be remembered for coming up with the law that capped interest rate. The bill was meant to help Kenyans get cheap loans, but President Uhuru Kenyatta successfully pushed for its reversal last year, noting that it had been counterproductive.

Identical twins, Melon Lutenyo and Sharon Mathias, who were separated at birth at Kakamega County Referral Hospital left tongues wagging. [Kevin Tunoi, Standard]

16. Kakamega twins separated from birth: The story of Sharon Mathias and Melon Lutenyo, who were reunited this year, nearly 20 years later after being separated at birth, kept the whole nation enthralled. 

17. David Rudisha: David Rudisha is the 2012 and 2016 Olympic champion, 2-time World Champion, and world record holder in the 800 metres. At his peak, he was being compared to  Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest runner.

18. David Maraga - The first Chief Justice in the continent to annul a presidential election in 2017.

19. Willy Mutunga-  Mutunga was the first Chief Justice and president of the Supreme Court, under the new constitution. He helped to institute Judicial reforms.

20. Justin Muturi and Ekwe Ethuro: Justin Muturi is the first speaker of the National Assembly under the new Constitution in which Parliament was divided into two chambers. Ekwe Ethuro was the speaker of the Senate.

21. Edward Ouko: The fiery accountant was a thorn in the flesh of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration. The first auditor general, under the new constitution, he questioned the Government’s spending including proceeds from the country’s first Eurobond.

Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

22. Agnes Odhiambo: She was the first Controller of Budget under the new constitution. Her work was to ensure that all the legal and technical requirements had been met before any public body could spend money.

Interior CS Fred Matiang'i. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

23. Fred Matiangi- The now Interior Cabinet Secretary left an indelible mark in the education sector when he headed the docket between 2015-2017, with his far-reaching reforms. His crackdown on exam cheating saw the number of As scored by KCSE students dramatically reduce.

24. Moreno Ocampo- The former ICC Prosecutor is the one that was responsible for the prosecution of four Kenyans at the Hague-based ICC. The cases have since collapsed with his successor Fatou Bensouda blaming Ocampo for bungling the cases.

Abdul Haji who was among the first rescuers during the Westgate Mall attack on September 21, 2013. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

25. Abdul Haji- The brother to the current Director of Public Prosecutions Nordin Haji, Abdul has come to be known as the face of Westgate attack heroes. During the  attack on the mall in Westlands Nairobi in September 2013, Abdul risked his life to save countless others , as did a number of other security officers and civilians and emergency response teams that pitched in to help victims of the attack.

26. Anne Mumbi- Currently the Governor of Kirinyaga, she  will be remembered for how she changed National Youth Service (NYS), as Devolution cabinet secretary. She would eventually leave the ministry to take up what she described as lighter duties in the wake of public outcry over loss of billions at the department through procurement malpractices.

27. Francis Wangusi- The outgoing Communications director is responsible for the shift from analogue to digital, a development that has completely altered the media landscape.

28. Audrey Mbugua- The transgender activist that went on to have gender changed from a male to a female.

Binyavanga Wainaina.

29. Binyavanga Wainaina- The winner of Caine Prize in Literature, Binyavanga Wainaina not only contributed to the country’s literary discourse, he also contributed to a heated debate on sexuality after revealing that he was gay. Other notable literary artists during this decade include Yvonne Adhiambo, the author of the book, ‘Novel.’

Peter Mokaya Tabichi, He was crowned 2019 Global Teacher Award winner. [Harun Wathari/Standard]

30. Peter Mokaya Tabichi- Mr Tabichi is a Kenyan science teacher and Franciscan friar at the Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village. He is the winner of the 2019 Global Teacher Prize. He was rewarded for giving all his salary to charity.

31. Lupita Nyong’o- The Hollywood actress was the first Kenyan to win an Oscar award.

32. Salah Farah- Muslim teacher shot while shielding other passengers by refusing to be seperated along religous lines.  Al Shabaab terrorists had attacked the Mandera bound bus in December 2015 that Farah was on. He died weeks later from his injuries.

Brigid Jepscheschir Kosgei is a Kenyan marathon runner who won the 2018 Chicago Marathon and the 2019 London Marathon. She came second at the 2017 Chicago Marathon and 2018 London Marathon.

33. Brigid Jepscheshir Kosgei-  The winner of the 2018 and 2019 Chicago Marathons and the 2019 London Marathon is the current marathon world record holder for women running in a mixed-sex race, with a time of 2:14:04.

34. Rita Jeptoo- History might judge her harshly for being the first one to soil Kenya’s rather clean athletic record with accusations of doping. Other prominent athletes felled by the doping scandal include 1500metres runner Asbel Kiprop.

Sauti Sol.

35. Sauti Sol- The group has had a part to play in the sound of Kenya’s pop music beyond its boundary in the last decade might be attributed to this quartet. They will also be remembered for popularizing Afro-fusion in Kenya.


36. Juliani- While King Kaka might be doing well currently with his hitsong Wajinga Nyinyi, the prize  for popularising political songs in this decade goes to Juliani.

Former President Mwai Kibaki giving a public lecture at the university of Nairobi Taifa hall in June 2015. [Mbugua Kibera, Standard]

37. Mwai Kibaki- It is the former President who set the ground for the growth of the country’s economy. Kibaki is remembered for the manner in which he helped the economy to take-off. It was also under his tenure that the country got a new constitution in 2010.

38. Julius Karangi- The Commander in Chief of the armed force that declared war against Al Shabaab was President Mwai Kibaki, but the general that led the Kenyan troops into Somalia was Julius Karangi. The Linda Nchi operation is yet to end since 2011 when it was started.

39. SGR and Chinese invasion- The Standard Gauge Railway for which Kenya has borrowed close to Sh500 billion is symbolic of Chinese invasion into Kenya. China has been welded into the country’s development agenda, building roads, houses, or even just selling household stuff.

Prophet David Owuor. [Harun Wathari, Standard]

40. Prophet Owuor- One of the personalities that have elicited debate on matters religion in the last 10 years is prophet Owuor. A televangelist that does not fit in well into the DNA of popular prosperity gospel, Owuor has attracted followers for his ‘miracles.’ But he has also attracted critics who have questioned the miracles.

41. Kenya national rugby Sevens team- The Kenya national rugby sevens team, which competes in the World Rugby Sevens Series, were the Main Cup winners at the 2016 Singapore Sevens.

Suspended National Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Henry Rotich. [David Gichuru, Standard]

42. Henry Rotich- The suspended National Treasury Cabinet Secretary is the first CS to be arraigned in court while still in office, following President Uhuru Kenyatta’s war on  graft that has seen a number of senior Government officials charged in court.

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Governors (from left) Anne Mumbi, Charity Ngilu and the late Joyce Laboso during the 6th session of the National and County Governments Coordinating summit at State House, Nairobi in June 2018.

43. Charity Ngilu/Ann Mumbi /Joyce Laboso-  They were the first women Governors to be elected under the new Constitution and came into office in 2017.

44. Dr Peter Gichuhi Mwethera: Gichuhi invented a gel that can kill HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. He is the director of Medical Africa Limited.

45. Ronald Karauri- The former pilot is the CEO of Sportpesa, a betting company that contributed to the growth of the betting craze in Kenya. The company has since shut its operations in the Kenyan market, leaving a big hole in some sectors of the economy including media and sports.

46. Fred Ngatia- The lawyer convinced the Supreme Court to abolish mandatory death sentence, a far-reaching decision that has seen most of the capital punishments in the country commuted to life imprisonment.

Activist Okiya Omtatah. [Boniface Okendo,Standard]

47. Okiya Omtatah- An activist who has taken upon himself the burden of representing ordinary Kenyans. He has won a number of cases, despite representing himself in most of them.

48. James Mwangi- After helping the growth of micro-lending, the CEO of Equity Bank, pioneered agency banking, which reduced the number trips to banking halls. Never afraid to try new grounds, Mwangi has now cast his eyes on digital banking.

49. Juliana Rotich- She is an information technology professional who has developed web tools for crowdsourcing crisis information and coverage of topics related to the environment. She is the co-founder of Ushahidi, open-source software for collecting and mapping information.  

50. John Chigiti- Successfully fought for intersex children to have registration documents and recognized as a gender

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