Michelle Nafuna Wamalwa, popularly known as Chichi, was only three years old when her father, Vice President Michael Kijana Wamalwa, died in August 2003, barely a year after assuming office.
She became famous because her father used to carry her to press conferences and she would sing and hit the microphone, oblivious to what her father was saying.
Despite the loss of the family’s main breadwinner, Chichi, grew up to become bubbly and ambitious.
She had big dreams of walking in the footsteps of her eloquent and generous father who had gone to Ivy League schools and was one of Kenya’s most polished English speakers.
Sadly, 14 years after the demise of Kenya’s eighth Vice President, Chichi’s mother, Yvonne Nambia Wamalwa, also died last year after a long battle with a brain tumour that wiped out the family resources.
Today Chichi is 18.
Her once-animated face is strained with pain and uncertainty and her hopes are shattered. Her smile is gone, she’s anxious about her future education and her family’s survival.
She’s on anti-depressants.
Chichi says people falsely believe being a Wamalwa makes her life better.
“Uncle Eugene (Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa) told me I should prepare to leave for Australia on a government scholarship,” she told the Star on Friday at her run-down Karen home. “That was on March 13, 2018. I was only left with two weeks to graduate from high school. Since that time I have been waiting.”
In her first media interview, Chichi opened up to the Star about the family’s protracted property dispute with her step siblings that have left them impoverished.
Reached for a comment on Friday, Eugene said he could only discuss Chichi’s education on Saturday. “Call me tomorrow. Am with her at her late mother’s first anniversary memorial service at Karen,” he said in a text message.
“When you go and look for help, you’re told there are people in your family who can take care of you, why don’t you go to them? These same people are the one’s ruining your life,” Chichi told the Star at her family’s overgrown, rundown, unguarded Karen home.
“I’ve been on anti-depressants, my anxiety is a time bomb and we are no longer able to afford medicine,” Chichi said.
At the burial of Chichi’s mother Yvonne, Deputy President William Ruto promised the government would educate Wamalwa’s children. He also promised Yvonne’s sister, Nangami, a job to enable her to take care of the children.
It hasn’t happened.
Wamalwa’s Karen home sticks out like a sore thumb in the leafy neighbourhood of imposing homes. It looks deserted, ghostly.
Today, the family can hardly afford basics.
“It has been difficult,” Chichi said. “If it were not for friends and well-wishers, we would not be surviving.”
She has been out of Gems Cambridge International School for nearly a year for lack of funds.
They say their extended family, including their uncles, have abandoned them and one is clandestinely behind the family property feud.
Derek Mboya, Chichi’s elder brother, told the Star yesterday there were family feuds before Wamalwa’s death but they never thought they would turn so toxic. He returned from Australia to help the family.
“Mzee [Wamalwa] and the extended family always had some ups and downs, but they never extended the problems to us. They treated us well until his death,” Derek told the Star.
He says his family story is one of grace to grass. When he was 10 he went with his father to political events.
One minute they had it all — bodyguards, shopping in high-end stores and holidays in exotic destinations.
Today, that’s gone and some family members have made comments that are a threat to their life, Derek claims. He says visiting their Kitale home is almost impossible.
Derek said his father was generous, educated all his siblings and helped “all and sundry”.
This may explain why unlike politicians of his time, Mike, did not accumulate massive wealth.
Things turned sour when he died.
First, it was communication breakdown, long meetings and sleepless nights for his mother. “We started seeing our mother having longer nights, a lot more meetings, we assumed it was normal. Later we understood she was under a lot of pressure,” Derek said.
Yvonne died at her sister’s place in Nanyuki. Her children claim she was in debt and there was no money to take her to hospital.
“Mum never got to enjoy dad’s retirement benefits, including health insurance. If my mum had medical care, she would probably be alive today,” Chichi said.
Her aunt Jacqueleen Nangami Nyangweso, who has been providing for the family, has exhausted her savings.
Fifteen years after Wamalwa’s death, his pension has never been processed. An injunction was issued after a suit by Wamalwa’s eldest daughter, Alice Muthoni Wamalwa.
Retirement benefits (Deputy President and Designated State Officers Act) are generous for former Vice Presidents. These include health insurance for the beneficiaries’ spouse.