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How a liver disease brought two Kenyan lovebirds together in a foreign land

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On a hot Sunday in July 2016, Anthony Maina Ng’ang’a finally met a woman who, for a number of days, had been asking him dozens of questions via messaging platform WhatsApp.

The meeting happened at the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in New Delhi, India, as Anthony’s systems were coming to grips with adjustments that had been done after a major surgery and the heavy medication that followed.

The operation that was conducted on June 13, 2016, saw 65 per cent of his mother’s liver surgically removed and attached to his, a process that slammed the brakes on a rare liver disease that had been plaguing him for more than five years.

The inquisitive woman, Ms Ruth Muthoni, was scheduled to undergo the same procedure as Anthony’s mother on August 8, 2016, at the Medanta Hospital, about two hours away from the hospital whose medics had operated on Anthony.

Sixty-seven per cent of Ruth’s liver was to be excised and given to her elder brother, Mr Peter King’ori, who had the same rare disease as Anthony.

She had been posing the many questions to Anthony as she sought to understand everything about the procedure, having obtained his phone number from a former classmate.

That communication between Ruth and Anthony, under trying circumstances; that brief first meeting at the hospital in New Delhi, has progressed into a marriage — a love story between a liver recipient and a liver donor that was brewed in India and whose main ingredient is a rare liver disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis.

When they let Lifestyle into their rented house in Nairobi’s Ngumo Estate for breakfast, it was the 53rd day for the Maina’s since their wedding that took place at the Lily of the Valley Garden along Kiambu Road on December 15, 2018.

The breakfast meeting also came eight days to Valentine’s Day 2019, a day that will mark a year since Mr Maina went down on one knee to propose to her, whereupon her answer was a no-brainer.

We find them watching cartoon series “Family Guy” on Netflix. Ruth, 27, ensures everyone in the living room has a cupful of hot tea and buttered bread before she sits by her husband, 30, for the interview.

Anthony Maina makes the right pick on his fiancé Ruth during the traditional wedding in September 2018.

Anthony Maina makes the right pick on his fiancé Ruth during the traditional wedding in September 2018. PHOTO | COURTESY

WE MET TO SHARE KNOWLEDGE

“When we had that first encounter, I don’t think any of us knew it would end here because, at that time, in the situation we were in, we were just trying to get information and share it with each other,” Anthony says.

Ruth says that they arrived in India on a Thursday and went visiting Anthony and his mother Eunice Wangari on a Sunday.

“They were looking really good. It was just a month after surgery and I couldn’t believe they had undergone the operation,” says Ruth.

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On hindsight, she believes Anthony and his mother were putting on a brave face to give her assurance ahead of her operation.

“To some degree, I think they were acting. They didn’t want to discourage us. They were sick but they just wore smiles, something that really encouraged us,” she says.

The two maintained their communication until the day Ruth and her brother Peter went for surgery. Liver transplant operations are scheduled in such a way that the donor is the first to be opened up so that doctors can be completely certain about the quality of the liver.

Once medics are satisfied that the liver is good enough to be transplanted, the opening up of the recipient’s chest starts. Ruth says her surgery lasted 14 hours while her brother’s, which was delayed for about an hour, went on for 18 hours.

Ruth’s surgery having been completed, and as her wound healed, it was Anthony’s mother — her future mother-in-law — who signed as her caregiver.

“She took care of me while my mum acted as my brother’s caregiver,” Ruth says. “Anthony couldn’t visit me in the hospital because he had not recovered fully. So, we continued chatting over WhatsApp,” Ruth reveals.

It took over a month before Ruth recovered enough to move around. In those early post-surgery days, doctors had instructed her to walk a lot. That is where Anthony came in handy. He visited her the same week she was discharged and encouraged her to follow the doctor’s advice.

“I didn’t feel like doing it; but he managed to push me,” she remembers.

“After that, he took me to visit my brother who was still admitted in hospital, and while we were there, it was him who was taking care of me instead of my mum and my aunt. He was wheeling me around in the wheelchair, which was really nice. I think my mum and my aunt felt like I was in good hands. They didn’t have to keep checking behind their backs to see what I was doing,” narrates Ruth.

Those were the beginnings of their relationship.

ln days to come, Anthony would take Ruth to a mall nearby, which they say is the only place a person could find “normal” food because Indian food is typically jammed with spices that wrestle down the palates of the uninitiated.

“He was living about two hours away from me via train,” she remembers. “On that day, he arrived early in the morning and we had breakfast, then we went to the mall and he walked me round.”

IS THIS LOVE I’M FEELING?

Anthony could not help falling in love. He admits that the attachment began when they were exchanging messages on WhatsApp.

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The “how are you feeling today?” or “what happened today?” and such questions, he says, drew him closer to Ruth, who graduated with a degree in Information Technology from Strathmore University in 2015.

“She didn’t realise that as she was talking to me, it was also helping me recover better because at that time, not many people would talk to you continuously,” says Anthony, who graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from Dedan Kimathi University in 2014.

“In a foreign place, it can get boring and lonely. So, most of the time I found myself just talking, and when she came to India and they went through the surgery, I felt like it was now my turn to just keep her company, talk to her while she was recovering; just be the comfort that she would need because she had done the same for me,” adds Anthony.

So, who among them was the first to say “I love you”?

“Of course, him,” says Ruth, laughing.

Anthony Maina with Ruth Muthoni in India.

Anthony Maina with Ruth Muthoni in India. PHOTO | COURTESY

It happened after they had both returned to Kenya from India, their surgeries having been successful.

“In India, she just thought I was taking her out on dates and showing a lot of interest in her because she was the only Kenyan there,” jokes Anthony.

“I thought I was his India entertainment,” Ruth adds in the same spirit.

After they returned to Kenya and she realised that Anthony still had interest in her, she started taking him seriously.

“She saw I was serious and she decided to easen up; because before she was a hard nut to crack. Everything was just ‘No,’” Anthony narrates.

They also think the gods put the odds in favour of their meeting, same disease — primary sclerosing cholangitis.

RARE DISEASE

According to mayoclinic.org, the condition blocks the tubes that carry bile from the liver to the small intestine, which causes liver damage in the long run.

“A liver transplant is the only known cure for advanced primary sclerosing cholangitis,” the site states, noting that scientists still do not know what causes the condition that mostly affects men.

“It is a rare disease. In Kenya, I’ve only heard of, including myself, maybe just three people, four maximum, who are suffering from it,” says Anthony.

The fact that Anthony and Ruth’s brother had the disease, and the fact that their livers failed around the same time, makes them see the workings of a divine force.

“I think all this was in the plan of God,” says Ruth.

“And then there is the fact that a really close friend, whom I’d call a sister, found herself in the same class as Ruth. Those were very rare odds. I’d say that to some extent, fate brought us together,” Anthony says.

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His queen, her king

“After meeting her, my life just turned around. She says it’s because I got better, but to me, to some extent, I feel she also has some positive input to it because when you get to this point in life, you need to get focused, and she’s the one who makes me get focused and try to build a stable life for her and for myself. She brought a lot of positivity to my life,” says Anthony.

They are also glad that parents from either side approve very highly of their marriage. Anthony, one of two brothers, says Ruth is now considered the daughter his parents always wanted to have.

Ruth says her mother holds a very high opinion of Anthony.

“My mum says that the one thing she’s happy about Maina is how strong he is; that even when he was sick, he was able to go to work and just try and lead a normal life,” says Ruth.

And how is life in marriage taking them?

“It is fun,” Ruth replies. “Of course, we have been making a few adjustments; getting used to living with one another. But it’s been mostly good.”

“I used to live alone but after the wedding, she came in and we live together. It’s been exciting. It is what I had hoped for, if not better,” Anthony chips in.

Anthony was born in Eldoret but was raised in Nyeri while Ruth has spent most of her life in Nairobi. Anthony’s plight was widely shared on social media ahead of his trip to India, and pictures of his emaciated, discoloured self moved Kenyans to contribute generously towards raising the Sh7 million that was required to facilitate the transplant a success.

The couple is now adjusting to life together, or to “have a very long period of non-conflict” as Anthony puts it. He is currently working with a company that offers financial solutions through technology while Ruth is a consultant in IT.

On Thursday, as loved ones throughout the world mark Valentine’s Day, Anthony is preparing something special to celebrate their love.

“I can’t disclose it now because it has to be a surprise,” he smiles.

Ruth is eagerly waiting for the day. “Since he proposed last year, I’m waiting to see the surprise he has for me,” she says, laughing.

The way the two met is an example of unconventional circumstances that brought people together, who later got married.

In Kenya, there have been cases of people who met at football matches and later tied the knot. There is even a case of people who met through comments on a popular blogger’s platform.

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Diaspora

Help Atlanta-based Kenyan woman in immigration custody fight for her freedom

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Well wishers and friends are appealing for your help in an attempt to secure the freedom of their compatriot who was taken into custody in Atlanta and could be facing deportation. Here is her story:

On the night of April 7th Veronica was on her way home from work when she was pulled over for a minor traffic infraction. Unfortunately In the process of completing her paperwork, her immigration status came up. This led to Veronica being taken in to custody.

We as her friends have come together to help Veronica and retained an attorney to  represent Veronica on the immigration case. We need your help to enable Veronica afford the opportunity to appeal her immigration case, gain her freedom and continue living in the US.

We are reaching out to you appealing for your compassion, goodwill and financial support to assist in raising funds towards Veronica’s attorney fees and immigration fees. The total needed for both the attorney and immigration fees is $8,000. This will help Veronica get the representation she so desperately needs and get her out of custody.

Please help bring Veronica home to her loved ones. Help us make a difference in Veronica’s life. Help her gain her freedom. Let us show that humanity and compassion still exist and thrive.

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Any size donation is greatly appreciated as we come together to bring Veronica home and help her overcome this hardship.

Your support and kindness is very much appreciated and will never be forgotten.

Donations can be sent to:
1. Cashapp: +16782056692 ($dnkatha)

2. Gofundme

For more information contact:
Dianah: 6782056692
Lucy Karuri: 6784787804

May God bless you abundantly

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Meet Kenyan Beauties and Brains in the US: Vote now for Miss Kenya USA [PHOTOS]

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BY BMJ MURIITHI

Voting is now open for Miss Kenya USA pageant as the clock ticks towards the much awaited colorful gala event set to take place on July 6th 2019 in Renton, Washington.

The Miss Kenya USA Organization’s objective is to empower young Kenyan women here in the United States through engaging them in events and programs that will enhance their educational background as well as growth within the Diaspora through philanthropic work.

VISION

The pageant’s ultimate vision is to allow each young lady that is participating in the pageant to have an avenue where they can express themselves freely while exercising their goals towards development. It also hopes to mold these young women to be leaders of tomorrow, by helping them adapt to roles and programs that will utilize their skills to their maximum potential.

Remember you can vote for your contestants daily: YOU CAN VOTE HERE ANY TIME

The Pageant was the brainchild of Mr. Michael a.k.a “Frakaz” Bisonga, under the Frakaz Entertainment Group based in Houston, TX. The Pageant was always hosted in Houston over the Memorial Weekend in 2006 saw the first actual pageant take place.

“Our ultimate goal is to impact one girl child at a time that will in turn produce a ripple effect within our community of development and self sufficiency,” says the founder.

We hope to link each one of the contestants with an organization that is already working at social and/or developmental issues in Kenya as well as here in the USA; to further the purpose of their platforms. Lastly we shall encourage these young women to market and be the best goodwill ambassadors for Kenya in the Diaspora. These women shall execute but not limited to the following expectations:

  • Organization Ambassadors
  • Community Development and leadership
  • Good stewardship
  • Pageant Platform Driven
  • Accomplish set Goals
  • Share their success stories to motivate others

She adds.

YOU CAN VOTE HERE ANY TIME

Here are the beauties and their bios:

CAROLYNE NGANGA

My names are Carolyne Nganga. Currently, I am located in Washington DC and I am pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Nursing. Nursing was and still is a career path I knew I wanted to pursue since I was 13 years old back in Kenya, because of financial constraints, I did not get a chance to pursue the career on completion of my high school education. Just to back up, I dropped out of high school due to lack of school fees and was out of school for 2 years. During this time, I got an opportunity to work as a waitress (at the age of 15) in a family owned restaurant in Nairobi. Right before
my 18th Birthday, I had enough savings to go back to high school and I proceeded. Working as a young teen exposed me to real struggles a lower class Kenyan face every day, struggles faced by young people due to lack of an Opportunity to pursue education and challenges of working teens. The experience built my character and thrust me towards desiring more not only to better my life but that of our community.

My platform, something I have yearned for a long period now is 1st education (every child matters, is my theme) 2nd is working towards curbing child-maternal mortality and lastly preventive care (teaching the community about all modifiable risk factors in an effort to reduce or better, prevent certain illness that have plagued our Community today for instance Hypertension, diabetes and stroke) I plan to use my skills in combination with high healthcare technology am exposed to here in the US to
instigate change in healthcare system in Kenya especially in rural areas.

My voluntary experiences include free clinics within the DC, Virginia and Maryland area, feeding the homeless in DC, support of several causes for instance runway for cure cancer awareness. I am excited to be part of this pageant because I believe the experience I will get will guide me into my Platforms.

CYNDEE MULINGE

YOU CAN VOTE HERE ANY TIME

My name is Cyndee Mulinge, and I was born in Kajiado and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. I am a graduate of Central Washington University with a Bachelor’s in Social Service and Psychology. Zealous in expressing my love for Kenyan culture while here in America, I work as an assistant for the African Print Takeover, a movement which brings African culture to the Northwest through fashion. Also, passionate to give back to the community, I regularly volunteer for various non-profit organizations such as Cry Out (an after-school program using music, dance, and creativity to empower youth to lead, pursue justice for themselves and others oppressed in their communities) and Mary’s Place, an organization which helps Seattle’s homeless by providing shelter.

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I love giving back to my community! In continually doing so, I noticed a lack of follow through after organizations donate to children’s homes. How often does one check in after giving to see what else is needed? Thus, my Miss Kenya USA 2019 platform is charitable giving through Reach A Life Foundation. For the past year, I have partnered with the Nairobi-based “Reach A Life Foundation” to emphasize follow through by providing food, clothing, and tuition for orphans in various children’s homes. There is a sense of belonging when you know you have people who are looking out for you, who cares and supports you.  It is essential for us to show these orphanages that we are here, and willing to provide them with life’s basic needs and assist them with their major needs.

R.A.L.F has successfully provided support to 11 children’s homes, amongst them: A home specifically for children with disabilities, and another with children who are HIV+. My goal is to use my title as Miss Kenya USA 2019 to inspire my community, to further my education, and to aid R.A.L.F in expanding their reach to even more children homes in need. It would be an honor to be your Miss. Kenya USA 2019!

Do as well as you can, with what you have.

HELLEN KAMAU

Hellen Kamau is a Kenyan native who currently resides in Birmingham, AL. She is a graduate from Auburn University in Auburn, AL and an incoming student at Samford University’s, McWorter School of Pharmacy in Birmingham, AL. In addition to these studies, she is also getting her master’s degree in Public Health. Her heart is for her community and that is where she desires to begin touching lives.
The journey to achieve a doctorate degree will expand what she’s been longing for in improving her community and the future healthcare systems in Kenya. Giving back in the area of healthcare is the mountain she stands on.
She is also associated with other organizations such as the National African Student Association(NAFSA), BLAQK EMPIRE, and Off the Block Kids Athletics, which is based in Kenya. NAFSA educates and guides students by helping them make a smooth ransition to getting jobs, lowering student loans, and to tackling obstacles faced while progressing into the work field.
BLAQK EMPIRE’s core values are grounded on empathy, gratitude and ambition. It’s main goal is to empower each of us to be better, to love ourselves and others while changing each community at a time. And lastly, Off the Block Kids Athletics is an organization based in Kenya that she has had an opportunity to be an ambassador of for the past 3 years. This organization works to get children involved, active and healthy through athletics. She has helped raise funds that have allowed the children to enjoy activities such as track and field, and providing the proper equipment. Through this organization they have been able to educate young children about their health, eating habits, and how to take care of there bodies at an early age. This organization aides in keeping children out of the streets, while helping them achieve their dreams and allowing a safe and fun place for children to simply be children.
All of these organizations stand for pride, unity and love. This candidate defines her future and the future of her beloved country by simply being our best versions. Miss Kenya USA gives a push to magnify what’s been simplified.

WENDY ODUOR

Mahatma Gandhi once said “Be the change that you wish to see in the World”, a statement Wendy Oduor desires to embody in her generation.

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As a fashionista, host and speaker, the recent graduate from Parsons School of Design in New York City believes that it is time to rise and champion the cause and solutions for mental health awareness.

Mental health remains a silent epidemic affecting millions of Kenyans. The lax mentality and approach as a nation towards mental health has instead oppressed those living with (knowing or unknowingly) and affected by various psychological diagnosis rather than leading them to a road of freedom and recovery.

After tragically losing her brother to suicide in 2014, Wendy, like many others, retrieved to silence. Wendy eventually understood that pain can birth purpose when allowed. This helped Wendy to begin sharing about her experience as a guest speaker at social events and utilizing social media to create awareness and a safe space where people break their silence and are encouraged to seek professional help. Wendy reaches over 100 people when hosting her weekly Mental Health Monday live on Instagram. In addition to creating awareness in the diaspora, Wendy also made it her mission to visit a mental health institution in Kenya to begin building relationships, understanding the logistics of the Kenyan health care system and gain first hand insight from Kenyan health professionals to see how to successfully combat Mental Health in Kenya, as a long term goal.

Wendy Oduor is embarking on the Miss Kenya USA pageant with a mission to promote mental health awareness across the diaspora and Kenya through education and action. This mission will entail dismantling countless generational errors in how Kenyans have dealt with matters affecting the mind, through constant conversations and teachings about mental health using but not limited to online platforms, schools, churches, and public events. The latter step which is about action, include result geared action plans put together by societal members alongside mental health care professionals to successfully guide individuals to their breakthroughs in the hopes to end the silent epidemic of mental health.

NEEMA NYAMBURA KIMARU

Age: 23 (soon to be 24)

Education: In 2017 I received my Bachelors Degree in Communication Studies and Marketing at Meredith College. Meredith is an all women’s liberal arts college in Raleigh, NC. After receiving my degree I traveled to work abroad in Asia for a year and a half as an English teacher! I have recently relocated back to the USA permanently and am currently working as a Communication Specialist in the Triangle Area.

Platform: Inclusion and Education for First Generation Kenyan American Youth

This cause is so near and dear to me because in so many ways it stems from how I have come to define myself and my own identity as a Kenyan American. I see a very great need in our diaspora community to include and educate our youth about where they come from. Especially as more and more Kenyans settle here in the States and have families, it’s apparent that their children are sometimes clueless about what it means to be Kenyan or even worse, they don’t care. Many don’t even know how to speak Kiswahili and definitely not their tribal language. I know this is an issue that has been prevalent in our communities for quite some time because I and my fellow Kenyan American peers were (and still are) this way!

Here is a little bit of background about me. I have always been proud to be a Kenyan and always maintained that I grew up in a true Kenyan home for the most part. Everything from the food we ate, the church we attended, and the family oriented priorities we held contributed to that. I was also very fortunate to grow up in an active Kenyan Community and to have traveled to Kenya often growing up. Through all of this I did learn a lot about Kenya historically, culturally, and also about my own families personal history. However, English is my first language and we always spoke English at home. My parents and extended family always struggled to try to teach me Kiswahili and Kikuyu. As I have gotten older I have taken it upon myself to learn. I still struggle to speak and overcome shyness of speaking, but I can understand about 50% while listening to a conversation so I have improved quite a bit! My goal this year is to become conversational by years end.

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Many first generation children and young adults are in the same situation as me and it does make me very sad. Even though there is still a lot for me to learn, I am a big advocate for this cause and I feel that if we come together as a community we can find a way, many ways actually, to better include and educate our youth. Other nationalities have done wonders in this department so I am currently studying their methods. My dream is to operate a non profit dedicated to this cause! Should I win or place at all in the Miss Kenya USA pageant this year my winnings will go towards this endeavor.

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Diaspora

Kenyans in US furious at “Recommender’s ID requirement” in e-passport issuance

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Several Kenyans in the United States are frowning at the requirement for a copy of recommender’s Id card in the e-passport registration exercise which is now underway at the Embassy in Washington DC and the two consulates in New York and Los Angeles.

After Kenya Satellite News Network (KSN) posted the requirements as published by the Immigration department, many readers took issue with them, with others even terming some of those requirements as “insane.” Sample the following:

JMurangi wrote on Facebook: Why are we always being subjected to unrealistic conditions as if we are school children? What kind of government does this to its people? This is insane!

Maggie Marikah Kwabena wrote: Why do I need a recommender if I already have a Kenyan passport? Number two, how much will this cost me? I presume instead of the Embassy going to where Kenyans are, they want Kenyans to incur the expense? Makes no sense. Rahisisha hii maneno.

Sadique Aress No 6. Copy of the recommender’s kenyan ID? Kweli this country is confused.

John Kariuki tweeted: Who advises Uhuru Kenyatta? No, really.

Adiamboj wondered on Instagram: Who asks for recommender’s IDs in this day and age. In any case, shouldn’t they have my information from the previous Passport Application? No wonder we still lag behind in spite of boasting that we are the leader in East Africa. Cr*p.

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However, Joseph Mwaura, who said he is based in Nairobi had a different perspective. He wrote: “Just as we expected, Kenyans in the Diaspora are cry-babies who always want the rules to be bent to suit their circumstances. Please give us a break…we have better things to do.”

KSN sought a comment from the embassy but our phone calls went unanswered.

Here are the requirements for replacement of passport( Current holders of passports being phased out)

  1. A duly filled application form
  2. Copy of Birth Certificate
  3. Copy Certificate of Registration if Kenyan by Registration
  4. Original Kenyan ID and a copy for Adults
  5. 3 (Three) passport size photos
  6. Copy of the recommender’s Kenyan ID
  7. Duly filled Consent form for Minors
  8. Old passport and a copy
  9. 2(two) payment invoices for the prescribed fee

Others had issues with Huduma Namba registration as well:

Nicholas says: with all due respect, the embassy performance in delivery of services is pathetic. I have travelled there on numerous occasions and they are MIA in that dungeon they call the embassy of Kenya in Washington DC.
Walk to 1232 22nd st. at the Tanzanian embassy and you would understand why am calling it a dungeon where zero services are offered. I don’t think the Kenya embassy is ready for Epassport and Huduma Number. If you have doubt, just inquire how many officers are assigned to complete this noble national exercises.

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He adds: Can someone explain to them that these people in US are parents who have to meet their children education tuition and accommodation within this time frame they have set. kenyans would prefer to educate their children who will come to invest in Kenya where they will be comfortable to invest as compared to the children of those who have no roots in Kenya.
Let them lead in a smart way. Why do they create a policy they can’t deliver on it? This Huduma Number has got a limited widow when it should be obtained so does the Epassport. The issuance place is Washington DC for the passport and we are yet to know where that of Huduma Number. They have assigned limited officers to carry on this task.

Does he realise the distance between Seattle Washington and Washington DC? Does he realise that there are three different time zones involved? When they limit the time to get the Huduma Number up to end of June, do they take into account the travelling involved and the cost? Matiangi said they are paying an officer Ksh 1,000.00 a day. If we go by their set standards any Kenyan who travels to Washington DC should be paid $1,000.00 a day, adds Nicholas.

READ ALSO:   VIDEO: Kenyan man marries a Korean girl at a colourful ceremony

 

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