Kisumu slum hustler elated after President Uhuru promises him a job
By Kevine Omollo | February 10th 2016
Kisumu, Kenya: A-twenty-eight year old Kisumu job seeker Philemon Awando is an elated man after getting a direct call from President Uhuru Kenyatta promising him employment.
He caught President Uhuru's eye and ear last Sunday in Kisumu when he shouted Rais, Rais, Rais Rais at the top of his voice as presidential guards shoved him aside. But this was the moment that would define his fate.
His was a rare gamble of a shout that prompted the President to turn towards him before he ordered the guards to allow him greet the leader. It was that moment that turned around his fortune. The Head State beckoned him and offered him a firm grip of a handshake and asked him what his problem was.
For the diploma graduate who had been searching for a job since 2012, it was the moment to sell his credentials. He took the opportunity to beg for a job. His contacts were taken by the handlers from Sate House and surely the course of his fate looked up.
What started as a mere two minute chat with the President has now turned out to be a bright fortune for the former Miwani Boys Secondary School who has been living in Obunga slums for the past 10 years since moving out of his parents' house.
At the heart of the sprawling Obunga slum, word has spread like bush fire that one of their lowly neighbours has received 'presidential appointment' and may soon start dinning at the high table, a situation which has seen people mill around his humble abode to get the story from the 'horse's mouth'.
Awando's story draws parallels with biblical Zacchaeus the tax collector whose story is told in Luke 19, on how Jesus was passing through Jericho and when a man by the name of Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him. Fortunately he got more than he bargained for, an appointment with Jesus himself.
President Uhuru had visited Kisumu to preside over the official opening of the headquarters of the Seventh Day Adventist Church West Kenya chapter.
On his way to the venue from the airport, the President had stopped to address the public as his motorcade snaked its way through to Mamboleo where the event had been set.
Awando who was among the people who turned up to have glimpse of a State visit and to listen to what the Head of State had to offer to a region profiled as Opposition rock bed.
"I had in previous occasions tried to access the President whenever he visits this area, but the security has been too tight that you cannot get closer. So this time round I was prepared to do anything in order to touch his hands. And when I saw him extend his hand to greet people along the streets, I pushed my way to reach him," said Awando.
It was however not an easy task as the security men formed a formidable wall to minimize access to the President, especially the surging crowed which had a mixture of cheer and jeer.
Awando started shouting 'Rais Rais' (Mr President Mr President), and the call drew the attention of Mr Kenyatta who directed that he be let to reach him.
"Habari yako kijana. Uko na shida gani" (How are you young man what is the problem), these are the words Awando heard from the President who firmly shook his hand and drew his ears closer to listen to his 'problems'.
"It was less than a two minutes chat and I went straight to the point explaining to the President the challenges youths from the slums face which include unemployment, giving my case as an example. He told me to give him my contact that he would get back once he got back to Nairobi," he said.
At 6.55pm same day, Awando's phone rang, it was an office line. His heartbeat became heavier and louder but he received the call.
"A voice of a lady greeted me and inquired whether I was Philemon and if I had talked to the President, and after confirming these, she told me to hold on and that someone would talk to me shortly. It was the President himself and I was shocked when he told me to explain what I had shared with him at Obunga," he said.
The President then assured him of a job, and referred him to an officer from the Ministry of Public Service Youth & Gender Affairs who was tasked to find him a placement within Nairobi.
He immediately received a message which read 'Good evening, Ms Sicily Kariuki, CS Public Service, Youth and Gender has asked me to SMS you my email address for you to email your CV for consideration.'
Awando has been in wonderland since that day, and has been thinking of the day he will receive his appointment letter and plans to pay the President a visit and say 'thank you' in a special way if if he is allowed.
The last born in a family of six graduated last year with a Diploma in Community Development from St Paul University yesterday narrated how he has knocked many doors to seek employment, but has never been 'blessed with one.'
George Alex Omondi who shares with Awando in their tiny mud-walled room with rusty roofs in Obunga along the Northern Bypass has described the situation as a blessing and hopes his friendship with Awando will not fade off once he gets to his new life.
His mother Millicent Nyagaya a teacher at M M Shah Primary Schooldescribed him as a brave boy who drew his confidence from drama since school days.
"I am yet to be convinced that all Awando told me were true. I am however praying that all ends well and I would like to extend my gratitude to the President and thank him for his generosity in advance," she said.
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