Little-Known Kenyans Who Rose to Become MPs

  • From left Saboti MP Caleb Amisi, Kiambaa MP Wanjiku Njuguna and former Ruiru MP Esther Gathongo.
    From left Saboti MP Caleb Amisi, Kiambaa MP Wanjiku Njuguna and former Ruiru MP Esther Gathongo.
  • Democracy is the rule of the people, for the people and by the people. Every five years, Kenyans go to the ballot to elect leaders of their choice.

    While the ideal politics should be based on ideologies, politics in Kenya is predominantly reserved for the rich in society, who are able to influence voters by spending huge amounts of money. The seat for a Member of Parliament is often "sold to the highest bidder".

    However, a number of Kenyans have defied these stereotype, and won parliamentary elections with little or no financial muscle. took a look at some of these leaders.

    President Uhuru Kenyatta )right) hands Igembe South MP John Paul Mwirigi car keys after a Sagana Lodge meeting in 2017.
    President Uhuru Kenyatta )right) hands Igembe South MP John Paul Mwirigi car keys after a Sagana Lodge meeting in 2017.
    The Standard

    John Paul Mwirigi

    In August 2013, John Paul Mwirigi made history in Kenya when he became the youngest Member of Parliament after he was elected to represent Igembe South Constituency.

    Before hand, Mwirigi was a casual laborer at a tea farm in Imenti, Meru County and a university student. His venturing into casual labour was to help him make extra money to support his education and upkeep while in school.

    "I was just carrying logs and off-loading tea trucks. I earned Ksh350 a day," Mwirigi revealed in a past interview.

    The young MP noted that his decision to join politics was inspired by his late father who challenged him to try his hand in leadership.  

    The young Legislator intimated that he saved part of his earning to finance his campaigns. In his iconic grey sweater, he canvassed the constituency conducting a door-to-door campaign on foot, selling his manifesto to the electorate.

    Mwirigi, who ran as an independent candidate, was declared the winner after garnering 76 per cent of the vote cast.

    Caleb Amisi

    The outspoken Saboti Member of Parliament, Caleb Amisi, makes it to this list owing to the challenges he went through growing up.

    Amisi was raised by his grandmother, who took him in after his father died and the mother abandoned him.

    "I used to be a herds-boy and made not more than Ksh200 a weekend, that was enough to keep us going," the MP intimated.

    While in primary school, he had do take up menial jobs to sustain his family. His breakthrough in life came in the year 2000 when he sat his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE).

    Amisi performed exceptionally well, becoming the best pupil in Western Province. This earned him a place at Starehe Boys Centre.

    In a past interview, the MP recalled that he only reported with a few personal effects his family could afford, and that was the first time he wore shoes.

    He was introduced to politics by Peter Kenneth, his then schoolmate. Amisi's first stab at politics was in 2013 when he unsuccessfully ran for the seat under Kenneth's Kenya National Congress (KNC).

    Notably, he clinched the seat in 2017 on a Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party ticket.

    Saboti MP Caleb Amisi addressing Boda Boda on Monday, August 17, 2020.
    Saboti MP Caleb Amisi addressing Boda Boda on Monday, August 17, 2020.

    Esther Gathongo

    Esther Gathongo was elected Ruiru Member of Parliament in 2013 on a Jubilee Party ticket. Unknown to many, her political journey begun in Githurai where she operated a shop.

    A politician and friend who had interests in the Ruiru seat in 2007 had approached her to campaign for him owing to her popularity among the area residents.

    When the candidate won, Gathongo was handsomely rewarded by being nominated as a Councilor, now Member of County Assembly.

    "The day I was told that I was nominated as a Councilor, I did not know what it meant. I ran to my husband to ask him what that was," the former MP narrated.

    Since her nomination, she rose in ranks to become the deputy Mayor for Ruiru Town. Gathongo would later delved into the murky waters of elective politics winning the Ruiru seat in 2013 but lost it in the 2017 polls.

    "I remember I had to confront a party official to get my nomination certificate. It was very difficult. I was insulted and at times, they even roped in my family," she recalled.

    John Wanjiku Njuguna

    On July 16, 2021, John Wanjiku Njuguna, was announced as the winner of the Kimbaa Constituency by-election. 

    In a case of David verses Goliath, Njuguna pit himself against seasoned politicians, contesting for the seat on a newly founded United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party, in an area believed to be a Jubilee Party stronghold.

    He grew up in hardship and had to work to raise money for school fees.

    "I used to work while in High School to raise tuition fees until when I was in Form Three when a well-wisher offered me a sponsorship," Wanjiku stated.

    Questions were raised as to why the Deputy President William Ruto, would pick a little-known young man to contest for a seat previously held by prominent businessmen of advanced age and those closely allied to Kenya's first family.

    "When you look at the background in which I was raised and the predicaments I have faced in life, winning the seat is just a miracle," he noted.

    Wanjiku was a businessman and like Ruto, had a soft spot for the church, having served as an Evangelist.

    "I did evangelistic work at the Full Gospel Church. I was also a member of the praise and worship team," he noted.

    John Wanjiku Njuguna During Kiambaa campaigns
    An Image of John Wanjiku Njuguna During the Kiambaa constituency by-election campaigns on July 10, 2021.
    Dennis Itumbi