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The evening before our wedding, my husband was arrested – Beth Mugo



Senator Beth Mugo and her ex-diplomat husband Nicholas have been married for 61 years. The years started out with two love-struck youngsters who hardly dated, hoping for a happily ever after.

She was 19; vivacious and totally besotted with a 22-year-old lad. And when he asked for her hand in marriage, she didn’t have to think twice about it.

“He just told me that he loved me and that I was the only girl that he had ever loved. That was enough for me. He is also a gentleman. He was gentle then and he has been gentle till today,” she says coyly, a naughty glint in her eyes.

Beth Mugo is as beautiful now as she was then, and Nicholas Mugo holds on to her hand as they greet their guests. He smiles at her, a man totally at ease with staying back and watching his woman in her element as a social butterfly. Beth is animated and cheery, never letting his hand go, even as her eyes roam the expanse. She carries herself with an elegant poise that is set off in a warm manner as she embraces her guests.

We are at Villa Lalibela. The venue is ablaze with warm lights, tables draped in white, chefs and waiters walking up and down to cater to the guests milling about. We are here to celebrate the couple‘s 61-year union.

The who-is-who of Kenyan high society are in attendance. Her cousin, President Uhuru Kenyatta, is expected later on, but already milling about and mingling with other guests are the Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka, Justice Njoki Ndung’u and former MP for Othaya, Mary Wambui.

Guests are seated in a tent adjacent to the main one where the feasting will take place, waiting for the celebratory service to begin. The couple looks regal as they finally walk down the red carpet. The guests rise to welcome them as they beam with smiles. They are in matching outfits of black and gold. Beth Mugo is 81 but hardly looks a day over 60. She is in a black skirt suit embroidered with gold patterns, while her husband Nicholas, 83, dons a tuxedo with a gold band across the waist. He uses a crutch to walk, which I later learn is as a result of a slipped disc he suffered last year; the reason they are having a big do at 61-year mark instead of the 60th.

The couple has four children and five grandchildren.

A union that long has definitely had its share of highs and lows too. Their vows especially the “In sickness and in health” has been truly tested.

In November 2011, Beth was diagnosed with breast cancer after undergoing a mammogram. Luckily, the tumour had been discovered early and after undergoing treatment, today she is cancer-free.

Her experience turned her into a cancer warrior, and it was part and parcel of the celebration of her 61st anniversary. Instead of bringing gifts, guests were asked through the invitation card to donate to the Beth Mugo Cancer Foundation. “We use the foundation to do free screening for breast, cervical and prostate cancer. We have screened more than 12,000 people. Out of that, many lives have been saved. We have helped people to know their status early, to seek treatment early and God has healed them. We also create awareness. So this celebration also includes cancer awareness,” she says.

Beth and Nicholas are a contrast of personalities. She is outspoken and a career politician who has always been at ease with the limelight. He, on the other hand, is a soft-spoken and unassuming man who has largely avoided the media for most of his life. Even after such a long time together, they still sneak glances at each other despite being pulled into different conversations.

They didn‘t really date. At least not in the conventional sense.

“Those days we did not do much dating. Our parents were very strict. We were not allowed to go out with boys to stay out there. My father was very strict. He would say he doesn’t want the neighbours to say, ‘I saw Muigai’s daughter standing by road somewhere.’ He always encouraged us to bring them home. He always told us, ‘If a young man is interested in you or you like him, invite him home.’ My father always welcomed them home. All my sisters will tell you the same.“

So any courtship that was to be had in the Muigai household was done in the family home. Essentially, their few ‘dates’ were chaperoned.

“Maybe that is the reason we married young,” she says, laughing.

Unfortunately, their wedding wasn‘t quite as hitchless.

“It was during the State of Emergency time. The evening before our wedding, Nicholas was arrested at Gathage Township. He told the European arresting him that he had a wedding the next day. He mentioned my father, Muigai, who was the District Officer of Gatundu then. And that is how he was released,” she says.

But even after the wedding, the young couple had to fight some odds.

“After the wedding, Nicholas had to go to Nairobi for work and I was left in the village with my mother-in-law. I had no passbook. Everyone, especially the Kikuyus, had to have a passbook to stay in Nairobi. So we had to wait until I could get a passbook,” she says.

But the next time Nicholas came home, she insisted she had to go back with him to Nairobi. She wasn‘t taking no for an answer, damned the strict rules governing the city.

“That first night in the city, we were almost arrested. They came knocking at our door. My husband told the man arresting us that we were newly-weds and even though I had no passbook, I had refused to stay in the village. The man relented and instructed him to take me to the offices the next morning and I get a passbook which we did.“

Under the circumstances, a honeymoon was out of the question because the young couple did not have the money, and thanks to the emergency, there was nowhere to go.

Thankfully, a reprieve came in the form of an opportunity for the couple to go to the US for further studies. And here they are now, ageing together and still happy walking hand in hand through life.

Their eldest granddaughter, Wangu Nyachae flits by. She sports long faux locs and her big almond-shaped eyes are trained on her grandparents. She is obviously in awe of them. She instinctively notes my interest and mentions that she is thoroughly impressed that they have been together twice as long as she has lived.

“I think it is amazing. I have always admired their marriage. They are very close. They have definitely set an example for us when it comes to the types of relationships we want to have. They are very supportive and have been consistent that God comes first in everything,” she says.

So what does she think is the best thing about their union? I prod.

“They pray together. They dance together and take long walks together. They spend lots of quality time together. They may not be together 24/7 but they know how to spend quality time together.“

She points out that her granny is still quite the fox.

“I am hoping it’s genetic!” she says, laughing. “They have always taken care of their health and been very conscious of the things that they eat and have always been young at heart, and I think that has made them stay young-looking.”

What she would tell the young in love…

God takes centre-stage in their lives and she credits him for everything.

“In our 61 years of marriage, we have seen God. He has been our guide. What I have learned is that things change over time and you have to keep on changing with the times. You can’t remain where you were when you began. You have to accept the changes. But by and large, our marriage has been a happy one, full of respect for each other, communicating, because what we found is that no matter how big a problem is, if you discuss it, you can sort just about everything that comes your way,” she says.

She describes her husband as very caring, understanding and accepting of whatever career she chose. It probably helped that she has always considered being a wife and a mother as her first duty, and she says that her political and public life has never stopped her from fulfilling it.

“He himself also served as an ambassador and we have supported each other throughout. So there has never been a time where there was a question on whether I should do this; whether I should go into politics or I should give up. He always encouraged me and said, ‘If that is where your calling is, then go and I will support you,” she says.

Respect; what every parent should teach their child

Having nine descendants, she has some wise words on parenting too.

“Bringing up children is just like anything else in life. You will run into difficulty, so you have to keep on trying to educate them and yourself too. Not education as we know it, but social education on how to interact with other people. How to respect other people and especially the older generation. “We have always told our children, ‘Your parents are not just us, your biological parents. You should treat all older people with the respect you accord us.’

And she believes that respectful people make for a great country.

“I think that is what makes a good nation; respect for the older people by the younger ones.”


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151 cases, but Kibra isn’t on lockdown



The government appears hesitant to put Nairobi’s Kibra estate on lockdown despite increased number of Covid-19 cases that now stand at 151.

This figure is more than the cases recorded in Eastleigh and Mombasa’s Old Town which are on lockdown until June 6, 2020. The two areas were put under lockdown by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe on May 6 after recording 58 and 67 cases, respectively. So far, Eastleigh has 121 and while Old Town has 91 cases.

Issuing yesterday’s Covid-19 update where he announced 143 new cases, Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman said informal settlements in the country were on the government’s radar. “We have seen increasing concern around Kibra partly because of extended testing,” said Dr Aman.

Aman announced that surveillance teams were focusing on Kenya’s largest informal.“If these numbers continue to increase, necessary interventions have to be taken,” he said. The number of Covid-19 cases in Kibra have been increasing steadily.

Between May 21 and May 28, the area had 99 cases. The adjacent Lang’ata area had 31 cases, most of which the ministry said were from Kibra.

From yesterday’s figures, where 143 people tested positive across the country, Kibra came second after Makadara estate in Nairobi. Out of the 86 cases in Nairobi, 45 were from Makadara while 21 were from Kibra.

Embakasi South come third with six cases. Langata had one case. There was no reported case from Eastleigh. Health Director General Patrick Amoth said densely populated informal settlements have become hotspots for the disease.

“It is practically difficult to ensure social distancing. The only measure left (in informal settlements) now is hygiene and use of masks,” said Dr Amoth.

According to the Director General, lack of access to clean water has played a role in the disease’s rapid spread in informal settlements.

Apart from Kibra, Eastleigh and now Makadara, Mathare is the other informal settlement which has registered more cases, the highest being 33.

So far, the disease has spread to 33 counties, the latest being Kericho which reported one case in Ainamoi area. Uasin Gishu reported 11 cases, all truck drivers.

August peak

The peak of the disease in Kenya is expected to be around August and September when the Health ministry predicts a daily tally of 200. “By then, we will be at 4,000 or 5,000 cases and by our fatality ratio, we will be at 160 or 180 deaths then,” said Amoth.

Up to 63 people have died so far from the disease, majority being those with underlying health conditions like asthma, hypertension, diabetes and heart conditions. Majority of the dead were more than 55 years old, prompting the Health ministry to issue caution on unique symptoms of the disease among the elderly. The common symptoms synonymous with Covid-19 are cough, fever, difficulty in breathing and cold.

“The elderly may have different symptoms that include lethargy, diarrhea, confusion, anxiety, unexplained strokes, loss of taste or brain inflammation,” said Amoth.


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VIDEO: We are about to reopen our economy, says President Kenyatta



This  exclusive interview with Nation Media Group’s Editorial Director Mutuma Mathiu aired on NTV Kenya at 7.30pm on Sunday.

“The economic and financial shocks associated with Covid-19 such as disruptions to industrial production and supply chains, falling commodity prices, financial market volatility and rising insecurity have derailed the already tepid economic growth and development,” the President said.

To address the socioeconomic challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, President Kenyatta said the global community needs to focus on the implementation of the United Nations Vision 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Watch the Head of State as he articulates his agenda for the country.

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Kenyan scientist Muthoni Masinde created an app that predicts droughts



An app is combining weather station data with the traditional knowledge of African farmers to predict droughts.

To help prepare farmers for the effects of climate change, Kenyan computer scientist Muthoni Masinde has created mobile platform ITIKI.

The name stands for Information Technology and Indigenous Knowledge, and the platform sends farmers drought forecasts via an app or SMS message.

Although it uses meteorological data, Masinde says most African farmers can better relate to the traditional knowledge that is also used to formulate the platform’s predictions.

“I grew up in a [Kenyan] village and I noticed that most farmers do not have any form of science to tell [them] when to plant,” Masinde told CNN Business.

“They watch insects, they watch the behavior of animals and then they make a decision, ‘I think it’ll rain in two weeks’ time.’”

ITIKI employs young people in farming communities to gather photos and updates about animal behavior and local vegetation, such as which trees are flowering.

They capture their findings on the ITIKI app, and ITIKI collates this information with data from local weather stations to model weather patterns months in advance.

Farmers can subscribe to the service for just a few cents, and receive regular updates in their local language, helping them make early decisions about which crops they should grow and whether to sell or save their produce.

Economic impact of drought

Many African countries are especially vulnerable to climate change and small-scale farmers in particular, who rely on rainfall for their harvests, could face poverty and food insecurity, according to UN climate experts.

That could have major economic repercussions. Agriculture contributes about 15% to Africa’s total GDP, according to a 2017 UN report, and accounts for around half of the continent’s employment, according to the African Development Bank.

Now a professor at the Central University of Technology Free State, in South Africa, Masinde launched the app in 2016 in Kenya, where agriculture makes up around a third of GDP.

“Investments in climate adaptation solutions, especially targeting small scale farmers, would lead to GDP growth [in Africa],” said Masinde.

She added that African governments tend to react to drought and extreme weather, rather than proactively planning for these events.

“We do not prepare for [drought],” she said. “It’s like we just wake up and discover that people in rural Kenya are starving, that people on one side of the country have no rain.”

Masinde says ITIKI is now used by more than 15,000 farmers in Kenya, Mozambique and South Africa. Since farmers started using the app their crop yields have increased by an average of 11%, according to Masinde.

ITIKI has received $750,000 in funding from the US and South African governments, which will be used to scale up operations. By the end of this year, Masinde hopes to have signed up over 100,000 farmers to the platform.

BY Citizen

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September 2019


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