It was a dream-come-true for 82-year-old Fredah Shibonje, when she met President Uhuru Kenyatta in October 2018.
Like many nurses and midwives who get to first hold newborns, Shibonje, then a nurse at Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, vividly remembers Uhuru’s first cry in her arms. She helped Mama Ngina to safely deliver Uhuru on October 29, 1961.
But that dream was short as the president only got to chat with her for 30 minutes, with a directive for the facilitation of a visit to State House to meet his family. That visit has never materialised, two years on. But she hangs on hope, believing a day shall come for her to meet the president’s family.
The president met Shibonje at Kakamega State Lodge, barely eight kilometres from her Ikonyero rural home.
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“Uhuru could not hide his joy when he saw me for the first time,” she said during an interview at her home. “He greeted me warmly like a son who has not seen his mother for many years. We got engrossed in a hearty chat and had a great time together,” she says.
Shibonje took time to share what President Uhuru’s first few minutes of life were like immediately after Mama Ngina safely gave birth to him; how Jomo’s son cried out, and how little chubby and adorable baby he was.
“He attentively listened, giving me ample time to recount every detail inside the ward at the time of his birth in wee hours of October 29, 1961,” she said.
“I told the president that his mother was brought to the hospital by his father, who was accompanied by vice-president Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. I reminded him that his father and Oginga were great friends, which was why they kept each other’s company even at the hospital,” she added.
Shibonje recalls the two engaging in a political chat at the hospital as Mama Ngina went into labour.
“It was important to remind him about the ties that held Mzee Kenyatta and Oginga together because Kenya almost disintegrated in 2017 due to political rivalry between him and Raila,” she said.
The mother of six said it was sad to see baby Pendo shot dead in Kisumu during the political clashes.
“I wondered why Uhuru and Raila rivalry could be so divisive, yet their parents were close friends. But I felt good when they accompanied each other to the Madaraka Day celebrations in Kakamega on the day I met him,” she said.
She believes the president is a cut above his peers.
“He has a lot of respect for the elderly like me and lends a listening ear. I believe he has made huge strides in uniting Kenyans,” she said.
The UK-trained nurse recounted how she was with Mama Ngina for five hours to midwife Kenya’s future president.
“He promised to make arrangements for me to meet Mama Ngina and the rest of his family, whom he said were eager to meet me,” she said.
The president also asked her to reach out to some of her retired colleagues to accompany her to State House.
After the chat, Uhuru bid her farewell and walked straight to the waiting car “but he stopped temporarily and walked back to where I was and told me again that he was eager to see me at State House to meet his family.”
Although the president did not give her money as many people speculated, a senior government official later visit and advised her to open a bank account.
“The official informed me that she needed to help me open a bank account urgently and have the bank details sent to Nairobi. I furnished her with my details and we were able to open an account in Kakamega town the following morning. I tried following up on the matter with the county commissioner, but there was no communication, so I decided to wait,” she said.
Shibonje says she has a special gift for Mama Ngina.
“I wish to meet her as earlier planned. I know the first family is very busy, but I still believe I will be able to meet them someday.”