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Curtain falls on eccentric former Nairobi mayor John King’ori

The curtains have fallen on — arguably — Kenya’s most eccentric mayor of the last century, John King’ori, who passed on last week.

The late King’ori, who died last Friday, served as the mayor of the defunct Nairobi City Council for two years between 1996 and 1998.

He had replaced Mayor Dick Waweru, becoming the eight African mayor of the capital city, before he was replaced by Mr Sammy Mbugua.

Known for his outgoing demeanour and avant-garde character, Mr King’ori loved sports and was especially famous for his love for martial arts.

One not shy to express himself, the former mayor at one time demonstrated through karate kicks how he would finish his enemies.

Even after retreating to his private business, Mr King’ori was still active in the gym at his Accra Hotel along Accra Road in Nairobi’s central business district (CBD).

‘Very friendly person’

Kirinyaga County Assembly Speaker Anthony Gathumbi, who interacted with the former mayor after he retired from active politics, described him as a very friendly person.

“I did some work for him after his retirement from politics. He was a cool guy who was passionate about the city as he still used to visit City Hall even after he had left,” said Mr Gathumbi.

He would always evoke laughter and leave his audience in stitches with his bizarre statements which exposed his lack of formal education.

Infamous quotes

Some of his most infamous quotes included: “I is the mayor and others are mere kanjuras…” and “no vegetation is allowed in Nairobi beyond vegetables”.

When asked about his agenda for the city council after taking over as mayor, he snapped, “I do not have any hidden agenda for the city.”

Makadara MP and the last mayor of Nairobi, George Aladwa, remembered the late King’ori as a people’s person who rose from a councillor to a mayor.

“I remember him as good karateka and cool guy. He used to live in Umoja before moving out. My condolences to his family,” said Mr Aladwa.

During an interview with the New York Times in December 1995, the late King’ori said he had received a call from God to salvage “this city”.

He escaped death by a whisker, dodging a bullet after a gunman tried to kill him.

He also received anonymous death threats as he tried to fight corruption in the city council.