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Was the oldest person on earth Kenyan and we didn't know it?

By Ndungu Gachane | June 26th 2021

Mzee Wanyondu was buried at his Magaragara village home in Mihuti location near South Tetu Girls. [Courtesy]

Kenya could have registered the oldest man in the Guinness World Records had the government heeded a family’s wish to carry out a DNA test on its now deceased great-great-grandfather.

Julius Wanyondu Gatonga of Mukurwe-ini, Nyeri County, could have broken the record of all 50 living oldest people in the Guinness World Records, going by his national identity card which indicates he was 137 years old.

Mzee Wanyondu, who died on Monday, was buried at his Magaragara village home in Mihuti location near South Tetu Girls.

And now, posters have emerged questioning whether he was the oldest man in the world.

According to Gatonga’s son, Jackson Gatonga, 76, his father could have been much older given his vast knowledge of Kenya’s history.

Wanyondu had seen it all, from being detained at Manyani camp to losing his three children to starvation while he was still being held.

“He would tell us about the First and Second World Wars, and the Mau Mau war of Independence.

“He also recounted Kenya’s political history,” Gatonga said.

In his youth, the patriarch was employed as a houseboy by an Indian in Nairobi for Sh3 per month, but later joined the East African Railways (now Kenya Railways) before quitting and returning home to concentrate on coffee farming.

Gatonga said his father had no history of sickness apart from the stomach surgery he underwent to resolve aches.

One of the major challenges the family faced was trying to register their father with the National Hospital Insurance Fund as computers failed to accept pre-1890 birthdays.

Until his demise, the great-grandfather, who only ate indigenous foods like arrow roots and traditional vegetables like ‘hatha’ (stinging nettle), had good memory and eyesight.

His relatives told journalists at his home last year that he had hearing challenges but his other senses and memory were good for his age.

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