When President Daniel arap Moi visited Kisumu shortly after ascending to power in late 1978, he was shocked to notice that there was no female worker at the Kisumu State Lodge.
He immediately asked the State Lodge bosses to ensure the facility had gender balance among the staff members. That gesture by the second president of Kenya saw Agnes Awino Gor’s journey from grass to grace.
Ms Gor had been a health mobiliser in Kisumu.
“Mzee was championing empowerment of the girl child in all cadres,” she said.
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To execute the president’s order, a number of women were recommended for recruitment. Seven were finally invited for interviews at State House, Nairobi.
Gor emerged the best, landing the housekeeper role at the Kisumu State Lodge, a position she held until 1994 when she joined the Kenya Medical Training College in the same position. She retired from public service in 1999.
When she heard the news of Moi's death yesterday, Gor was touched, and memories of her life at the State Lodge resurfaced.
She had been working on her autobiography, but took a break due to ill-health.
Yesterday, she narrated how she used to move up and down to ensure everything was right in Moi’s house every time he was set to visit.
“I had been thinking of going through local leaders to access the family of Mzee Moi so that I could know how he was faring on, only to wake up today (yesterday) to the sad news,” she said, adding that this might have been a premonition of the death.
Born in November 1944 at Kabar village in Muhoroni, Kisumu County, Mama Agnes, as she is commonly known, grew up in the rural area, and was immediately married after completing her primary education.
Her zest to serve the public saw her join health campaigns that were being implemented by the Ministry of Health in Kisumu.
Her eloquence, smartness and penchant for fine things catapulted her to the high table, which saw her get recommendation for the interview for the State Lodge job.
The staunch member of the Africa Inland Church attributes this to the chemistry between her and Moi, as she was also a member of the church choir, and the president would recognise her while attending their Arina AIC Church in Kisumu, or Ogada AIC, together with former Foreign Affairs Minister (the late) Robert Ouko, who hailed from the same area.
Her exemplary job saw the former president reward her with a piece of land in Kondele. The parcel has been her sole source of income since she left public service.
Yesterday, Gor said she would wish to attend the burial of Mzee Moi to pay her last respects to the man who got her from grass to grace.
She said Moi always wanted the best for his workers, and this motivated him to get the housekeeper a plot within town, where she could stay closer to her work place.
“I remember the day Mzee Moi summoned (the late) G G Kariuki (former Laikipia Senator) and asked him why he used to wake up late any time they were in Kisumu. Mr Kariuki complained that he had a very small bed, which denied him comfort while sleeping. We were immediately ordered to get a better bed,” she said.
The same happened to Gor, who explained that she had to cover a long distance from Nyahera to Kisumu town for work, a situation that made Moi to offer her the land in Kondele.
The mother of 10 said her work was to ensure the State Lodge was neat and conducive for the president and his guests, as well as make sure Mzee’s clothes and bedding were clean.
She would also buy traditional vegetables and Molo lambs, which she said were Moi’s favourite any time he was in Kisumu.
“Every time he was to visit Kisumu, I would ensure the entire Milimani Estate was sprayed to control mosquitoes,” she said.
She added: “Working for President Moi will take a bigger chunk for my autobiography.”