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How these former student leaders rose to national politics

By SILAS APOLLO January 28th, 2018 2 min read

A number of present and past politicians began their careers as student leaders in public universities.

While at university, these politicians were chairpersons, vice-chairpersons, secretaries-general or treasurers of student unions, an arena that offered them a perfect chance to get into the national limelight.

Embakasi East MP Paul Ongili, popularly known as Babu Owino, is a former long serving Students Organisation of Nairobi University chairman.
He says the student leadership experience played an important role in his August 8 parliamentary election victory.

“I did a lot for the students I served. I targeted the parliamentary seat to prove that I was worth to be a leader before I run for presidency,” Mr Owino said.

Another notable former student leader is Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja.

Mr Sakaja shot to fame during the 2005 constitutional referendum while serving as a Sonu chairman.

He was also elected the vice chairman of Actuarial Students Association at the University of Nairobi.


“When I was eight years old, I used to say that I wanted to be president. I was thrust into politics at an early age and the person I credit for that is President Uhuru Kenyatta,” the senator said.

“He held my hand when I was only 24 and he has taught me a lot.”

The lawmaker says he was inspired by former South African president Nelson Mandela and trade unionist and cabinet minister Tom Mboya.

“Even if it costs me politically, I would die to see a united Kenya. I have never been a divisive character, never believed in tribal politics and I am not vengeful. I don’t believe in returning hate with hate,” he said.

In Nyamira County, 25-year-old Emma Okangi beat top politicians to be the running mate of Mr Kennedy Mong’are in the governor race. Mr Mong’are was the then senator of Nyamira County.

Ms Okangi is a catering and hospitality graduate of Maasai Mara University. She once served as the director of accommodation at the institution.


“I was a student leader and managed to convince the senator to work with me due to my track record,” she said.

Other student leaders-turned-politicians are East African Community chief administrative secretary nominee Ken Obura and Gilgil MP Martha Wangare.

Former Sonu chairman David Osiany also unsuccessfully ran for the Rongo Constituency seat in the last elections.

Some of the top politicians who were also student leaders include Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen. He was a student leader at Moi University, Eldoret.

Former Mombasa Senator Omar Hassan was once secretary general of Moi University Students Union. He contested the Mombasa governor seat last year and lost to Mr Ali Hassan Joho.

Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichungwa was also a student leader at the University of Nairobi. Others are Siaya Senator James Orengo and former Mukurweini MP Kabando wa Kabando.