I’ll forever be grateful to Uhuru, says human rights crusader

By Stephen Mburu and Metro Correspondent
“This country will never belong to the Luos!” he paused, waiting for his audience to internalize what he had just uttered. “Or to Kalenjins!” Now all attention was on him. They seemed too confused on what he was up to. “Or the Maassais, Kambas, Taitas, Embus, Kisiis.

 This country nduguzanguni, whether we like it or not, will never belong to the Kikuyus! It belongs to the 42 plus ethnic communities that the Almighty created in this part of the Universe!” thundered Kamau Aidi, a crusader for peace, democracy and social justice, who attributes his academic success, sense of humanity, peace, justice and democracy, to nurturing by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Aidi is so passionate about peace, justice and democracy that he literary makes them his pet subjects. And he has almost given his life to the cause.
  Aidi was, until months ago, a civic engagement specialist with an international NGO, Mercy Corps, where he would essentially do what US president Barack Obama used to do — mobilizing communities for worthy causes.
  Now a programme officer in Kenya with the respected Washington-based International Republican Institute (IRI), Aidi traverses the country educating the people on democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights. This is similar to what he used to do at Mercy Corps, where he would mobilize the people, especially the youths, with one mission in mind ¬– to make them agents of positive change.
  So how did he first meet and work for Uhuru, who would years later become Kenya’s fourth president? And how did he end up at the Mercy Corps, where he made a mark in community mobilization until May when he joined the IRI?
 “When, years back, I saw a vacancy advertisement at the Mercy Corps, I knew that was what my heart wanted to do – helping our vulnerable youths lead meaningful lives,” said Aidi.
“It reminded me of what the South African Jazz maestro Hugh Masekhela sings... 'Who will be there for alcoholics, drug addicts, victims of violence and abuse…?" he says.
 Aidi attributes what he is today to his humble background as well as time he interacted with then Uhuru, whom he first met in 1996 when the Kenya’s future president was venturing into elective politics in his Gatundu backyard.       
 The young politician would ask Aidi to volunteer as one of his political strategists. And Aidi, at the time in dire need of money for upkeep, was more than willing to volunteer and help the son of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta, achieve his political objectives.
 Today, Aidi has never regretted a bit volunteering for the ‘worthy cause’ that was the Uhuru campaign, as despite not making it to parliament, Uhuru offered to reward his staunch campaigner with a life-time asset—education.
 "When I volunteered to campaign for Uhuru in 1996, little did I know he would years later become our fourth president," says Aidi, and tells of his humble background and the circumstances leading to their meeting with Uhuru, who would years after the 1997 elections, pay full university fees for his once volunteer campaigner.
 “As I was told by my mother, the late Elizabeth Aidi, I was born on a roadside when she started experiencing labour pains on her way to the hospital, somewhere in Sabatia. Though I cannot communicate in Luhya, I was later to learn my mother hailed from the Luhya community and my father a Kikuyu.
 “ I grew up under very extreme poverty. My mother left me at a tender age of seven years. By then she had rented a house at Kamiriithu village in Limuru. She left with my younger sister, Wambui, ostensibly in search of my father. I was in class two. Later that evening, with no one to take care of me, I sought refuge in the neighbourhood where a Good Samaritan took care of me.”
 Though he later met his mother after several years, staying with people of goodwill became his way of life. He stayed in several homes (with all manner of tribulations).
 “At one home, I was chased away at night when it was discovered that the day`s milk was not there. I was accused of having drunk it. My pleas that a cat was notorious for that mischief fell on deaf ears. I was given marching orders at about 9pm,” he said with an unbearable pain in his eyes as if the incident happened the other day.
 Aidi was later to go through what one would simply describe as hell on earth and he remembers being chased from a number of homes on various grounds, including bedwetting. He would suffer until he met a real Good Samaritan, Mr John Muhia of Karembu village, who adopted him as his son.
 But even as he suffered, Aidi says he was at that early age, confident that only one thing would change his life – education.
“I never thought at any single moment of abandoning school and going to the streets. In fact, at one time I had stayed for almost a year without going to school due to my frequent search for a Good Samaritan to adopt me. So, one day in the third term, and being fed up with staying idle, I walked to Ikuma Primary School in Gatundu South and requested the head teacher to allow me continue with my education,” said Aidi.
 The boy was enrolled in class four and four years later, he was top in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education at that school, which saw him being admitted at Muhoho High School. There, he was lucky to get sponsorship through the Save the Children Scheme, which paid his school fees.
 Aidi performed well and joined Kenyatta University to pursuer a Bachelor of Education degree. At the university, he was again lucky to get a sponsor from Scotland, Pamela Mcgibbon, and thus was able to complete his course.
“At around 1996, I met a young man who was venturing into Gatundu politics, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta. Little did I know he would later be the fourth president of the republic of Kenya! We struck a rapport and later in the 1997 General Election, I was enlisted in his campaign team, where he ran for the Gatundu South parliamentary seat. I do recall while campaigning, we heard the then President Moi being quoted that losing was not part of his vocabulary. I told Uhuru that we should also adopt similar attitude. He flatly rebuked me saying that we should be humble enough to accept people`s verdict and try another time. Uhuru did not get elected in his first attempt and thus he dismantled his camping team. He then asked me what I intended to do with my life. I told him I wanted to pursue further education and attain a masters degree, but I lacked fees.”

Peace beyond boundaries: Kamau Aidi speaks as international guests (right) listen, during an outreach peace programme in Maragua, Murang’a County.

“Uhuru asked me to look for a university admission and keep him updated. And that is how I found myself at the United States International University (USIU), one of the best private universities in this region.   
“Uhuru not only paid for my full fees, amounting to Sh400,000, but every month for two years while I was a student, he would give me a stipend of Sh10,000,” says Aidi proudly.
After leaving college, Aidi briefly worked as tutor at the Kilimambogo Teachers College before joining Mt. Kenya University as the Dean of Students until June 2011 when he was employed by the Parliamentary Service Commission. He later joined Mercy Corps in September the same year. He says he tenure at the Mercy Corps gave him a chance to do what he likes best – changing people’s lives positively, fighting negative ethnicity and contributing to peace and justice in the country.
 “I was satisfied working with Mercy Corps by seeing young men and women, who would otherwise could have been wasted, getting a new lease of life through empowerment. Many have since started income-generating activities like garbage collection and recycling, greenhouse farming and some, through encouragement, hold key positions in governance under the new constitutional order through Youth Bunges started by the organization,’’ says Aidi.
 “I have met good people such as Uhuru. This has shaped my philosophy in life, that there is something good in people. If only we can tap that goodness, then the world would be a better place to be. This is what drives me in my work as a champion of peace, justice and democracy in humanity,” says Aidi, who now traverses Kenya advancing democracy, rule of law, justice and respect for human rights among the people.