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Meet young city hawker who offered Uhuru mint gum

For Dennis Murimi Wachiri, a sweets hawker along the busy Jogoo Road, September 01, 2017, started like any other day.

There was nothing unusual that gave a hint that this was his appointed day of not only meeting President Uhuru Kenyatta up close but also shaking his hand, having a brief chat and even offering the head state a ‘small’ token.

That Friday evening will now remain etched in the 21-year-old’s memory for the rest of his life.

“My day started like any other day. I had no idea that the president would be visiting the area adjacent to where I operate,” Murimi told Nairobi News in an interview.

But when the opportunity presented itself, the young man, who is a familiar face to commuters who frequently use matatus playing the Jogoo road route, made a bold and unthinkable move that caught the president’s attention.

HUMBLE OFFER

“I lifted an orange PK chewing gum and shouted while gesturing to him ‘Mr President, can I sell you this!” he recounted.

As protocol dictates, the President’s security detail attempted to block him while shoving him out of the way.

Luckily, the president, who was addressing a crowd at Burma Market from the sunroof of his vehicle had already taken notice. He quickly gestured to the security personnel to let go of the young man.

These photos capture the moment Dennis Murimi Wachiri, a sweets hawker along the busy Jogoo Road, met President Uhuru Kenyatta. PHOTOS | EMMA NZIOKA
These photos capture the moment Dennis Murimi Wachiri, a sweets hawker along the busy Jogoo Road, met President Uhuru Kenyatta. PHOTOS | EMMA NZIOKA

“Everything happened so fast. I couldn’t believe it. When I got close to his vehicle, all I could do was to offer him a mint gum worth 20 shillings,” he says.

The president gladly accepted the humble offer and cupped his benefactor’s head in his hand whispering something into his ear.

“He simply asked me what I wanted from him. I was in shock and I could not believe that I was talking to the head of state. I couldn’t talk,” Murimi revealed.

HARDSHIPS

But before his ‘accidental’ encounter with the president, Murimi’s life has had its fair share of hardships.

He recounted a time when he used to suffer from severe headaches while at St. Theresa’s Primary School, but neither he nor his parents had an idea that his condition was serious.

Then one of his teachers advised his parents to take him to hospital for him to be checked.

At Kenyatta National Hospital, it was discovered that he had a condition which results in the accumulation of fluids in the head. The doctors recommended an operation.

Dennis Murimi Wachiri (in blue shirt), a sweets hawker along Jogoo Road, is held back by President Uhuru Kenyatta's security detail. PHOTO | EMMA NZIOKA
Dennis Murimi Wachiri (in blue shirt), a sweets hawker along Jogoo Road, is held back by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s security detail. PHOTO | EMMA NZIOKA

He underwent the surgery and a shunt was put on his body but after two years it blocked and started giving him back pain. Later, another shunt was inserted through his head to his stomach.

The third born in a family of four and the only boy grew up in Bahati estate in Nairobi’s Eastlands and attended Highlink Secondary school.

After finishing secondary school in 2014, Murimi to start hawking sweets along the busy road.

“I didn’t want to be drawn in to a life of crime so I thought selling sweets would help me earn some little income,” he says.

SELLING SWEETS

Murimi’s health has since improved and he has been selling sweets for the last three years, which he says is the only way he knows off earning a living.

He still lives with his family and on a day he makes roughly Sh700 which he supplements the family’s earnings.

Murimi is however worried that he may soon be forced out of business once the Outering Road is completed since there will be no traffic on Jogoo Road.

He says this will be more of a curse than a blessing because his sales of sweets largely depends of the flow of traffic.

Murimi’s humble appeal to the president or any well-wishers to offer him employment.

Alternatively, he would be happy if Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko sets him off on a more meaningful form of self-employment although his preferred enterprise of choice is somewhat unique if not a little bit ‘odd’.

“All I want is for the new governor is to build me a public toilet so that I can earn a decent living without disturbing county askaris,” he says.