As Former US President Bill Clinton makes his first visit the country, one man will be hoping for a man-to-man talk with him.
Godwin Kipkemoi Chepkurgor, a nominated councillor in Nakuru, says he has some social business with Clinton that started in 2000, but of which the former American President has no clue. He seeks the former president’s only child’s hand in marriage.
In 2000 when Chelsea, her father and mother, now Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton, visited East Africa, Chepkurgor, then a Fourth Year student at Moi University, tried to make his intention clear. He wrote to Clinton, offering himself as a suitor for Chelsea.
He offered to pay 20 head of beef cattle and 40 goats to the Clintons in accordance to African traditions. He also named as his referees, then President Moi, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake chairman Zipporah Kittony and the Chepkoilel Campus Principal, Prof Margaret Kamar. He also gave the names his two college mates, John Tanui and Joseph Siror.
He sent the letter through then Foreign Affairs minister Dr Bonaya Godana and then US Ambassador to Kenya Johnny Carson.
But, instead of the positive response he was anticipating, Chepkurgor received visitors from the National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS). His letter had sent security chiefs in a spin.
It had been intercepted by the Foreign Affairs ministry and intelligence chiefs and he was summoned to a meeting with Godana.
National Security Intelligence Service officers began background checks on him both at his Kisanana village in Mogotio and at the university. They interrogated his family, villagers, university colleagues and lecturers.
Chepkurgor says he chose Moi as a referee because he was the chancellor of the public universities and the patron of his former school, Kabarak High School. And the president was his neighbour at home.
Kittony, he said, would represent the womenfolk since she headed the country’s leading movement for women and that his MP William Morogo (Mogotio) was married to Kittony’s sister-in-law Lenah.
Prof Kamar, the wife of then Minister for Trade and Industry Nicholas Biwott, was his principal at the university. Biwott’s Keiyo South constituency neighbours his.
So why did he write to the most powerful president in the world then?
Chepkurgor says he could not circumvent the security and diplomatic red tape to meet Clinton.
“I could not even meet Johnny Carson so I wrote the letter,” he says.
In the letter, Chepkurgor praised Clinton’s leadership style, the Monica Lewinsky scandal notwithstanding. He commended Hillary for standing by her husband “like an African woman” in the face of the scandal. He told Clinton to consider retiring to Africa.
He said he wanted to marry Chelsea but could not discuss the matter with her because, in an African setting, such issues are dealt with by parents, elders and the prospective suitor. He added that he would travel to America to meet with the Clintons.
After delivering the letter, he was summoned to the Foreign ministry’s headquarters in Nairobi.
“It was a Friday when I met with Godana’s (then Foreign Affairs minister) personal assistant, who said his boss wanted to see me,” he recalls. The minister was not in his office that day. He was told to return the following Monday but he did not honour the appointment because he was preparing for his graduation ceremony.
He feels let down by the Foreign ministry, which he says scuttled his efforts to fulfill his dream after a stab by Cupid’s arrow. He wonders if the US embassy got the letter.
The civic leader, who is still a bachelor, says though he has never made contact with the Clintons, he has been following Chelsea’s progress through the media.
“The last I heard of her was that she had graduated from the prestigious Oxford University and she was going on holiday,” he says.
“Had I succeeded in wooing Chelsea,” he says, “I would have had a grand wedding. I would have invited South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu to preside at the ceremony.”
A senior NSIS officer who conducted the man’s background check recalls their dilemma on Chepkurgor’s case.
“There was nothing much we could hold against him other than the fact that he authored the letter which I believe is still lying somewhere in our offices gathering dust,” he says.
“We gathered that this man was a teetotaller and a staunch Christian, who seemed to have been struck by Chelsea and I thought may be he just took the joke too far.”
The officer says he did not follow up the matter after compiling the report of his findings. Chepkurgor’s college mates and friends said he had developed a strong liking for Clinton’s daughter and it seemed to consume him.
He agrees. He has a collection of pictures of Chelsea and her family. The councillor says he is dying to meet Clinton.
And why did he go into civic politics instead of a white-collar job?
“I was active in the 2002 election campaigns and happened to have applied for nomination without giving it much thought. To my surprise, I got the nomination and took it up.”