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Dream shattered as young Uhuru's driver dies aged 83

Thursday May 30 2019

Villagers mourn Uhuru's childhood driver

A mourner displays a photo of Mzee Arap King greeting President Uhuru Kenyatta, at his home at Kiptorok village in Kituro, Baringo Central, on May 29, 2019, following his death after a short illness. PHOTO | CHEBOITE KIGEN | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

FLORAH KOECH
By FLORAH KOECH
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A man in Baringo County who chauffeured a young President Uhuru Kenyatta and his siblings has died aged 83, his dream of a proper meeting with the head of State shattered.

Clement Kiptoo Kurui, popularly known as Mzee Arap King, from Kituro in Baringo Central died on Tuesday after a short illness.

He had been undergoing treatment at Baringo County Referral Hospital in Kabarnet.

Clement worked as a driver of the first family, first chauffeuring founding President Jomo Kenyatta in the early 1960’s and later Uhuru and his siblings, whom he took to school and back home.

Uhuru, Muhoho and Nyokabi were all in nursery school at the time.

BEFITTING BURIAL

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When the Nation toured Clement's home at Kiptorok village on Wednesday, relatives and neighbours had gathered to make arrangements for the burial of a person described as a man of the people.

Family spokesman Julius Kurui said, “It is sad that our brother has died without fulfilling his dream of meeting the President, whom he chauffeured when he was a little boy."

Julius, Clement's brother, appealed to the President for a befitting burial for a man he eulogised as an icon, diligent, humble, hard working and sociable.

Clement's burial has been set for next Wednesday.

Julius said, “My brother worked with the high and mighty before he retired. He has left behind eight children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

"The government should consider rewarding the uncelebrated hero, who worked with the first family and also helped his kin."

Uhuru's driver Clement Kiptoo Kurui

An undated picture of Clement Kiptoo Kurui, who served as a driver for founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta's family. PHOTO | CHEBOITE KIGEN | NATION MEDIA GROUP

TRAINING

Clement journey to Mzee Kenyatta's service began when he joined the Kenya Police Force after serving as a police reservist for many years, and after a rigorous training in Kiganjo in 1955.

“When he joined the police force in 1952 at the age of 19, it did not cross Mzee Arap King's mind that he would one day drive the children of the highest serving officer in the republic," Julius said.

"He was chosen to drive the first president because of his exemplary work as a police officer. [His dream cannot be fulfilled now that he has died] but we appeal to the President to help us accord him a befitting send-off."

Clement graduated from Kiganjo as a GSU officer and returned for a refresher course in 1958, but as a police drive this time round.

Uhuru's driver Clement Kiptoo Kurui

An undated picture of Clement Kiptoo Kurui, who served as a driver for founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta's family. PHOTO | CHEBOITE KIGEN | NATION MEDIA GROUP

PROMOTION

During an interview with the Nation in 2016, a nostalgic Clement told of his service to Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

“Do you know that I brushed shoulders with the high and mighty during my 32 years in the disciplinary forces? I used to wake up very early and prepare to take the children to school. I would take them back home in the evening,” he said.

He said the young Uhuru became fond of him and once asked him why he had not been promoted to a corporal yet he had been the family’s driver for more than a year.

The young Uhuru asked questions that an older child would, he said, adding, "I spoke to him not knowing he would be president".

“I had been driving Uhuru to their Gatundu home when he asked me why I had not been promoted. I was adamant because I feared he would question his father on the same. I had to play safe,” he said.

Clement said he was amused when Uhuru whispered in his ear that he would ask his father to promote him.

He said he did not believe it but that that evening, little Uhuru ran to his father, hugged him and asked him to promote the family’s driver.

“Believe you me, two days later I was summoned to State House by Mzee Kenyatta. He asked me if I had been the one driving his children to school. I was promoted to a corporal alongside five of my colleagues who worked at State House."

Uhuru's driver Clement Kiptoo Kurui

An undated picture of Clement Kiptoo Kurui with another officer, taken during his service as a driver for founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta's family. PHOTO | CHEBOITE KIGEN | NATION MEDIA GROUP

MEAGRE EARNINGS

Clement later worked in independent Kenya’s State House until 1969 when he chauffeured judges of the East African Court of Appeal.

“I drove the judges to Uganda, Tanzania and Uganda where I spent a month on every visit attending to piles of case files,” he said.

Seven years later, he was posted to the Office of the President at Harambee House in Nairobi where he continued to serve as a police driver.

The man boasted of driving 'big people’ for more than 30 years but the job did not come with a big pay check.

He retired in 1988, earning a sum of Sh1,700, a time when his pension dropped to Sh700.

While displaying the receipt he obtained after withdrawing his monthly earnings, he said, “I wish the government would consider reviewing the pay given to retirees in this country. Imagine at the moment I am earning a meagre Sh2,400 which is not enough for my daily needs."

Villagers mourn Uhuru's childhood driver

Mourners gather on May 29, 2019 at the home of Clement Kiptoo Kurui, who served as a driver for founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta's family, following his death on May 28, 2019. PHOTO | CHEBOITE KIGEN | NATION MEDIA GROUP

HAPPY

Clement met Uhuru twice after that - when President Daniel arap Moi introduced them to each other before his retirement and during a tour of Kabartonjo in 2017 when they shook hands but did not discuss anything.

“I wish to meet the president but I understand his schedule is busy and there are issues of protocol. I am happy because the little boy I used to drive to school is now my president,” the jovial octogenarian said during the interview in 2016.

Clement was a renowned coffee farmer who spent his sunset years in the care of his children several grandchildren and more than 30 great grandchildren.

As he took the Nation around his coffee farm at that time, the strict old man reminded the journalist to write only what he said and then said goodbye.

Villagers mourn Uhuru's childhood driver

Mourners are pictured on May 29, 2019 at the home of Clement Kiptoo Kurui, who served as a driver for founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta's family, following his death. PHOTO | CHEBOITE KIGEN | NATION MEDIA GROUP