Meeting Jomo among Mambo Mbotela’s fondest memories

Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama, Siaya Senator James Orengo and veteran broadcaster Leonard Mambo Mbotela
Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama, Siaya Senator James Orengo and veteran broadcaster Leonard Mambo Mbotela

Veteran radio broadcaster Leonard Mambo Mbotela says he still remembers when he first met the first President of Kenya, the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

"Mzee tapped my shoulder and it was the best thing that has ever happened in my life," Mbotela told Word Is on Monday.

He met Kenyatta in 1975, after coming from Zambia, where Harambee Stars had gone for a football match.

"The pitch was filled to capacity. I was quite in the mood, and everyone was happy and Kenya won with two goals against Zambia with one goal. We came with our trophy," Mbotela recounted.

He says the match was so major that it left the then Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda in tears.

The late Jeremiah Nyaga, then the Minister for Culture and Social Services, called the leader of the team and told them they were invited to Nakuru.

"We went to Nakuru and there was a party with Jomo Kenyatta. After his speech, we mingled and I made my way to say hi. He asked me who I was and when I introduced myself to him, he was so happy," Mbotela said.

Mbotela says Kenyatta was hard to meet and greet.

"After the attempted coup d'état in 1982, I got a call from Lee Njiru, who was then the head of the presidential press unit, and I was informed that I would be joining the then President Moi's press unit," he said.

"I managed to go to the State House and met the second President of Kenya."

Through that opportunity, Mbotela says he travelled to many parts of Kenya and foreign countries, including China and Israel.

"One day I was alone very early in the morning in the office. President Moi was impressed that I was an early riser. He took me to his office, where we had a conversation with him face to face, and he asked me what I wanted from him," Mbotela recalled.

Of course, that was a golden opportunity for Mbotela. President Moi promised him some land back home and gave him Sh100,000.

"We became friends since then and I would take his microphones when he was addressing the public," he said.

Mbotela said the retired president, the country's third, was a generous person. He met Mbotela again during an end-year party in Mombasa.

"We were not so close. I shook his hand but we did not talk much," he said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was 17 years old when his father died in 1978, knows Mbotela very well.

"He praised me for making good life commentaries for his late dad, and since then, we have known each other," Mbotela said.

"At Nyayo Stadium in 2013, when he became the President, as he was coming down the stairs to get to his limousine, the first thing he did was he came directly to where I was. He said hi to me and asked me to visit him in State House."

Apart from being on radio, Mbotela is also a singer at Nairobi West with a band, and people really enjoy his music.