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Githeri man shares his experience five years on, days to election

Martin Kamotho (with a plastic bag of githeri) queuing to cast his vote at Kayole polling station on August 8, 2017. [File, Standard]

As the August 9 election approaches, Kenyans may recall one man braving the long lines while carrying githeri in a polythene bag.

Martin Kamotho, 43 at the time, said he awoke at 2 a.m. to vote in Kayole. He explained that the githeri was intended to satisfy his hunger pangs during the lengthy voting process.

At a time when all eyes were on IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati at the Bomas of Kenya, Kamotho's images of resilience, commitment to the electoral process, and passion to elect his preferred leader hit social media spaces. The photo helped to calm the tension that had been building among Kenyans as attention shifted to Kamotho, which lasted several days.

Kamotho earned the moniker 'Githeriman,' which drew the attention of other corporations eager to use him to promote their products. Subsequently, Kamotho got a Head of State Commendation from President Uhuru Kenyatta during the same year's Jamuhuri Day celebrations.

Five years later, and with only a few days until the election, The Standard tracked down the man who became famous on election day. On a warm Thursday afternoon, Kamotho's face paints a picture of a worried and dejected man who collided with an opportunity that unexpectedly slipped through his fingers.

"Not much has changed since 2017. The well-wishers who showed up around that time were not serious, they vanished," he told The Standard.

When Kamotho was invited to State House near the end of 2017 to receive the HSC, he returned home with Sh100,000 token. He was dressed in navy blue suits by a popular stylist who offered to dress him every August until 2022 to commemorate how Kamotho provided much-needed relief.

At the same time, a well-known hotel handed him some cash, hoping that the establishment will introduce githeri and pay him a commission based on how well the meal performs.

A tour company was also on his case, promising to take him on a vacation, but this did not happen. Despite the fame and money that came with the time, Kamotho's fortunes did not change significantly because no one offered a long-term solution or advised him afterwards.

Kiambu Woman Representative Gathoni Wamuchomba with Martin Kamotho alias Githeri Man at his home in Kayole, Nairobi. [Kamau Maichuhie, Standard]

Fortunately, he established a brand in his neighbourhood, and almost everyone refers to him as Githeri man or Governor. He is still hopeful that Lady Luck will smile on him again.

Another general election is just around the corner. According to Kamotho, life is becoming increasingly difficult for many Kenyans. "Things aren't looking good; in fact, if you ask someone for Sh20 today, they won't have anything in their pockets," he said.

Githeri man is still optimistic five years later; he is ready to wake up, queue, and vote again, hoping that things will improve. "I will still vote because we want a better country," he said. "It is not the wish of many that we are now feeling the heat of high cost of living, even the rich are crying."

"In 2017, I awoke at 2am to vote, but the polling station didn't open until 8am, so I dashed to buy Githeri because other voters had brought something to eat while waiting to vote," he said.

Even as he basked in the celebrity status, Kamotho stated that this was not his intention. Despite his circumstances, Kamotho says he will vote in the August 9 election. "It was not my intention to attract much attention; this time, I will carry porridge in a guard to keep me warm," Kamotho said.

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