Houseboy to Government Minister; Untold story of Kennedy Hongo

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When Oscars Award Winner Lupita Nyong’o said ‘all dreams are valid’, it sounded like a cliche occasionally thrown around by motivational speakers.

Lupita had won the most coveted award in the field of performing arts, albeit, being little known, not only globally, but even back in her ancestral home of Kenya.

Kennedy Hongo must have been among the millions across the globe whose stories could authenticate Lupita’s phrase.

A couple of decades ago, he was a houseboy, running domestic errands in homes in order to ache a living.

Life was so hard then, I walked barely naked as I had torn clothes surviving on barely a meal a day

Kennedy Hongo

But now, Mr Hongo is set to occupy a Ministerial office in Kisumu County Government, following County Assembly’s approval of his nomination to head the Lands docket by Governor Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o.

When Lake Region Bulletin caught up with him, Hongo wore his ever-calm look, occasionally throwing shreds of smiles, mixed with emotions from his reflection of his past.

“I started as a house boy taking care of a girl by the name Adhiambo in Nyamasaria,” he said.

Kennedy Hongo and Geoffrey Griffin (center)

Early life

Kennedy Hongo was born 51 years ago at Lumumba hospital in Kisumu to Mzee Benson Hongo and Mama Harriet Hongo.

His father was then an Administrative Police at a nearby police station.

“My father worked in different places, so I had the opportunity to live in different parts of the city,” he says.

Hongo’s was a polygamous family, and he was the first son of his father’s first wife.

He spent better part of his primary education in Kisumu before doing his final exams at Lake Primary School.

Errand boy

It was during his early primary education that Hongo worked as a houseboy.

He had to pause his education at class three.

After a few years, his aunt decided to stay with him so that he could have a way of going to school.

“My aunt decided to live with me so that I could help with the house chores as I went to school,” said emotional Hongo who was still nostalgic with his past.

“Life was so hard then, I walked barely naked as I had torn clothes surviving on barely a meal a day,” he narrated.

Getting to Starehe was the best thing that ever happened to me because it opened my eyes

Hongo

He pushed through and when the final results came, Hongo had topped the district.

He got a fully paid scholarship to Starehe Boys Centre in Nairobi.

“Getting to Starehe was the best thing that ever happened to me because it opened my eyes,” he says.

Hongo furthered his education at Kenya Institute of Management.

Griffin’s right hand man

The father of three attributes his success to Dr Geoffrey Griffin who was the Director of Starehe Boys Centre.

While undertaking his Business Administration degree programme, Hongo had been employed as an administrative assistant in Starehe before rising through the ranks to become Griffins personal assistant.

“Griffins taught me how to be a manager and how to be successful and that is why I am here today,” he said.

But this was not enough.

He also pursued International Business Communication at University of South Australia and theology degree at University of America.

His bond with Griffins who his first-born son is named after, grew stronger and they were a brand.

Hongo stayed in Starehe for over 25 years before coming back to Kisumu when his mentor passed away.

Politics

It was after his exiting Starehe that his interest in public office sprouted.

“Wow!” Hongo exclaims as he poses to watch the replay of Ghana’s Mohhammed Kudus goal against South Korea.

“You know the eye has no curtains,” he defends himself.

“I have not watched a single game since the world cup started, but I am supporting Brazil,” he says as we get back to continue with the interview.

I was new in politics, and I think that is why I lost the race

Hongo

Hongo’s first attempt in political office came in 2013 when he unsuccessfully ran for Muhoroni Parliamentary seat.

“I was new in politics, and I think that is why I lost the race,” he says.

After the elections, Hongo got an appointment as Kisumu county’s first chief of staff and Governor Ranguma’s personal assistant.

And during Governor Nyong’o’s first term in office, he was appointed the first ever Mthe then newly created Maseno Town.

The Govenor’s second term hands Hongo a bigger stake, CEC Member for Physical Planning, Housing and Urban Development just awaiting swearing in.

Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o and Kennedy Hongo together with other county officials during the unveiling of Maseno Town

Maseno Town

Hongo hit the headline when he made a presentation at Senate regarding the History of Maseno Town.

The Senate had summoned three constitutional bodies in its probe on Maseno boundary dispute that has dogged Kisumu and Vihiga counties.

The Devolution Committee chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang’ was seeking to establish if the National Lands Commission (NLC), the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) were aware of the dispute and what progress had been made to settle the matter.

“Maseno has always been a hot issue between the Luo and Luhya community,” said Hongo.

His father was among the few police officers who survived death by a whisker when they went to quell one of the numerous clashes in 1966.

The team of officers were attacked by a hostile team that was waiting for them.

Then the major question how could luo students study in western part of the country

Kennedy Hongo

“My father sustained serious injuries and his collar bone was broken and could no longer carry a gun,” he said.

After the incident, he was transferred to be a secretary in Nairobi.

Decades later, his son was appointed Town Manager by Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o.

“It happened that when I became the town manager, the border problem was still there and so I took an initiative to try solve the issue,” said Hongo.

After two years of the probe, in 2021, he presented his report to the house got a heated debate at the time.

In the report, Hongo held that the town was in Kisumu.

He says that the word Maseno was developed from Luo word ‘seno tree’ that had a canopy which acted as the first class for pioneer students at the school.

Hongo takes credit for having a report to produce facts about the town where his father cheated death.

Beyond limits

Despite his story being under wrap, Hongo keeps a huge history of his achievements during his time as an administrator.

He says that Starehe Girls Centre was his brainchild, a concept he borrowed from the Pioneer Starehe Boys Centre.

“I am the one who founded Starehe Girls Centre. I am the one who got the initial capital and land to set up the school,” said Hongo.

He also attributes the Cusions Boys and Girls Tobacco to his work, saying he started the school which was later taken over by the Government.

This was after the death of Dr.Griffins  and the area  residents started claiming the school and so he says he handed it over to the government.

“I had worked on the school through the support of Griffins but when he died, so many people came up claiming to own different shares and so to avoid chaos I handed the school to the government,” he said.

“I never speak loudly about my achievements,” he said as we take a pause to watch the last Ghana goal against Japan to seal the 3-2 victory.

Man of God

Hongo’s typical day begins at 5.00am or earlier, depending on the number of engagements

He gets to do exercises for 30 minutes, before getting into his daily program.

“The first thing I do when I wake up is to make my bed then get to exercise then I draft a short programme before heading to work,” he said.

During his free time, he spends a lot of time to write and spread the word of God.

“I am also an author and a preacher. I can proudly say that I am a man of God,” said Hongo.

Austine Ogalo
Austine Ogalohttp://www.lakeregionbulletin.co.ke
Lake Region Bulletin is your one stop multi-media platform for news and stories from the Lake Region counties of Kisumu, Siaya, Homabay ,Migori, Siaya, Kissi,Nyamira, Vihiga, Kakamega, Busia, Bungoma, Trans Nzoia, Nandi, Kericho and Bomet email:ogalo@lakeregionbulletin.co.ke austineogalo02@gmail.com

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