Rise and rise of Kang’ata, the new kid on the block


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The story of the newly crowned Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata is that of grass to riches, with his prodigious academic record and political activism being the difference.

The Murang’a Senator’s rise to high politics did not come easy.

The soft-spoken 39-year-old city lawyer has had a fair share of tiffs with life and what he has achieved can only be credited to stubbornness.

He says he was born a leader with a nickname, Nyoto, slang for a bright student who does odd jobs.

He made history in 2002 when he was elected vice-chairman of the University of Nairobi Students Organisation (Sonu) during his first year. He was 19 years old and since then, no first year student has held the post.

But if you thought this was the only height he climbed in student politics, you are wrong.


Within the first month at the university, Mr Kang’ata had already been elected the vice-chairman of the Kenya Law Students Society.

Mr Kang’ata, who served Kiharu as MP between 2013 and 2017, credits this election to his rise to the Sonu leadership at a young age.

“At the university, I was politically active. There used to be political events at the university then. We would assemble at a place called Kamukunji, outside the university’s Hall 9, where students were given an opportunity to address the comrades (fellow students),” says Mr Kang’ata, a staunch Catholic and a law lecturer at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa.

“So when the Sonu elections came, I was already a household name among my comrades in the law school,” he says.

However, as fate would have it, Mr Kang’ata would only serve in the Sonu leadership for six months because as he was suspended even before completing his first year after students went on the rampage.

The university management expelled him and the other Sonu leadership, accusing them of being behind the strike.

“We sued UoN. I being the lead applicant in the case,” he says.

Former Law Society of Kenya (LSK) President Erick Mutua and the current Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang represented him and the suspended students for free.

But the case dragged on for long, forcing him to head to his parents’ home in Grogan estate, Murang’a.

Having nothing to do with his life, Mr Kang’ata who had scored grade “A” minus in his KCSE exams at Thika High School in 1997, turned to washing cars for a living.

It is the car wash business that drove him to the world of real politics.

His return to college was not coming to reality because even though the High Court had quashed the UoN disciplinary committee’s findings, the same court referred them back to the university for another disciplinary hearing.

They appealed, but before a determination could be made, he contested in the 2002 election and was elected Murang’a Town Ward councillor.

Retired President Mwai Kibaki came to power and directed that all the expelled students go back to their institutions of learning.

In 2005, Mr Kang’ata graduated from UoN having completed his undergraduate degree in law.

In 2007, he was admitted to the Bar and later went into private practice.

One case that brought him to the public limelight was when he represented Rebecca Kerubo, a guard at a chemist in Gigiri in the case against then Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza.

For now, the task ahead of him is to ensure government business before the House is speeded up.

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