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Why Meru residents can’t get enough of Magufuli and Raila

BY AGNES ABOO @wilfrida_agnes

Innumerable Meru residents are taking pictures in front of a plaque of a road that was placed by new Tanzania president John Pombe Magufuli when he launched the rehabilitation of the Meru-Maua road as a minister in December 2003.

The plaque reads: “Republic of Kenya. The Official Launch of the Rehabilitation of Meru-Maua Road was done on 10th December 2003 by Hon John P Magufuli, Minister for Works, United Republic of Tanzania.”

The plaque, situated near Kaaga Primary School also bears Kenya’s coat of arms. Kaaga Primary neighbours Meru Teachers Training College, Meru School, Kaaga Girls and Kaaga Boys.

For years, it remained just like any other plaque “on a rock that measures about two metres high and one metre wide”.

Things, however, changed when Dr Magufuli was elected Tanzania’s President in October last year. Locals are taking pictures in “remembrance” of Mr Magufuli’s visit and as a sign of “association” with the no-nonsense leader whose austerity measures and reforms being implemented in Tanzania have shook the region.

President Magufuli was the United Republic of Tanzania Minister for Works when he inaugurated the key road connecting Meru and the miraa (khat) rich Maua towns.

LITTLE ATTENTION

He was invited to launch the way by Cord Leader Raila Odinga, his close ally who was the then Kenya’s Minister for Roads and Public Works in the Kibaki administration.

The rock where the plaque sits is natural and resembles the shape of Mt Kenya. The plague however appears worn out and requires some re-touch.

A plaque along the Meru-Maua road that was unveiled by Tanzania president John Pombe Magufuli in December 2003 when he was the Tanzanian Minister for Works. PHOTO | AGNES ABOO
A plaque along the Meru-Maua road that was unveiled by Tanzania president John Pombe Magufuli in December 2003 when he was the Tanzanian Minister for Works. PHOTO | AGNES ABOO

Before Dr Magufuli’s elevation to the presidency, the plague attracted little attention with only a few people attending public events that are sometimes held at Kaaga Primary, posing for photos there without caring about what is written on it.

A security guard at the school, Mr Michael Wanyeki said Dr Magufuli and Mr Odinga also planted trees near the plague.

“I was shocked after getting the news that Magufuli who I saw 12 years ago is Tanzania’s new President. I am happy that Meru county is associated with such a tough leader,” said Mr Wanyeki.

RISE TO PRESIDENCY

Key personalities in the country have also been hosted at Kaaga as the school is used as a landing ground for helicopters carrying VIPs who visit the hilly county which is the home of Mt Kenya.

Mr Wanyeki hopes that President Magufuli would remember to visit Meru again when in the country.

“He should come and visit Meru which we think contributed to his rise to the presidency,” Mr Wanyeki said.

A long serving security guard at Kaaga Primary, Mr Franklin Mwirigi said he used to read the name John P Magufuli on the plaque “but it never made sense to me.”

“The writing came to my attention late last year after Dr Magufuli was announced Tanzanian president,” said Mwirigi.

“Possibly the plaque can be reconstructed now to mark and tell a story about a very powerful personality in our neighbouring country and the world who visited Kaaga,” says Mr Mwirigi.