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GITHERI MAN: Photo of lanky man eating out of plastic bag becomes instant hit online

NAIROBI, KENYA: A city cleaner is the newest toast in town. But the man has made a name from winning a big bet – as has been the craze lately – but for simply turning up to exercise his civic duty.

On Election Day, Martin Kamotho, 41, woke up at midnight so he could be among the first voters at Imara Primary School in Dandora, Nairobi, to cast his vote. 

But when he arrived at the polling station on August 8, he discovered that he had been outfoxed by the majority of his neighbours, who had turned up even earlier. This marked the beginning of a long and tedious day.

Mr Kamotho had no money, but hunger didn’t care. The longer he waited in line, the hungrier he grew. But he was also determined to vote.

Soon, he spotted a familiar food vendor preying on those waiting in the winding queue and did the most logical thing; he pleaded with her to give him some boiled maize and beans, popularly known as githeri. She obliged.

Straightaway, he started munching to calm his rumbling stomach as he waited for his turn in the polling booth.

But while he may have thought that eating while queuing — killing two birds with one stone — was wise, others found it a bit odd.

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One curious voter took a picture of him munching away and sent it to a few friends. Before Kamotho had voted or even finished his ‘githeri’, his picture had travelled across the country via social media and was causing a buzz and not a little mirth.

When we met Kamotho yesterday, he was still wearing the same clothes he wore on election day — and still had ‘githeri’ packed in a polythene bag in his hand.

Circulating online

Kamotho, who does not own a phone, said he had no idea his photo was circulating online until his aunt sent for him.

“She told me to go to her house and I thought something bad had happened. She showed me a picture of me with my ‘githeri’ in hand,” he said.

He explained that on that day, he had woken up very early because he wanted to make sure his vote counted.

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“I wanted to vote for Uhuru, Ruto and Sonko. That why even when I felt hungry I dared not leave the queue to look for food.”

Unknown to the cleaner, who works in the city’s Dandora estate, he had become the poster boy for this year’s elections. Some people quickly tinkered with the picture, inserting it into photos of the rich and famous—some who have have no idea what ‘githeri’ is.

The photo-shopped picture that made him laugh the hardest was the one where he is seen standing behind US President Donald Trump.

“I have never even been on a plane yet here is a picture of me standing behind the US President; that really amazed me,” he said.

The ‘githeri’ in a plastic bag has made the man who works for the City Council famous. As he stood atop a vehicle waving to a crowd that had gathered around him yesterday, he was visibly overwhelmed by the attention.

“I really had no idea that simple ‘githeri’ could make me this famous; people know me as far away as the US,” he said.

Finding time

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“Everyone is talking about the elections right now but they are still finding time to talk about me.”

As Kamotho was driven away in the vehicle belonging to a media company, he waved at people the way politicians do at the crowds below them. He had become a celebrity.

Interestingly, even as his popularity grows, he is yet to pay woman who sold him the ‘githeri’.

“He owes me Sh50 for the two cups of githeri he ate and I am still waiting for him to pay me,” Gladys Nduta revealed yesterday.

Kamotho is non-committal about when he will pay the debt, but assures that he will pay — when he gets the money.

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