By Kigotho Mwangi and Brian Okoth
Lanet Umoja Location Chief Francis Kariuki has died.
Kariuki, who gained the sobriquet “the tweeting chief from Nakuru”, succumbed to diabetes at the Nakuru Provincial General Hospital (PGH) on Wednesday, October 21, his daughter, Naomi Mwaura, told K24 Digital Wednesday afternoon.
The administrator had earlier last week been admitted at the Evans Sunrise Medical Centre before being transferred to the Nakuru PGH after his condition deteriorated.
Kariuki is survived by a wife and three children aged 28, 13 and 7.
His daughter, Naomi, has refuted speculations that her father, 49, died of COVID-19.
“He was diabetic, and had been placed on medication for a while before losing the battle to the disease on October 21, 2020,” said Naomi.
Before joining public service, Kariuki was a primary school teacher in Nakuru.
The Kigari TTC-trained teacher taught for 21 years in different schools as an ordinary teacher, four years as a deputy head-teacher and six years as a head teacher at Lords School, Kambi Moto in Rongai Sub County.
“I developed a great passion in serving a larger community apart from only 300 pupils and teachers. In 2009, the position of Chief for Lanet Umoja Location was advertised. I applied, was called for an interview and succeeded. I became the first chief with the mandate to co-ordinate the community,” Kariuki told the Standard Newspaper in a March 2015 interview.
Kariuki said — due to his new job — there was the need for him to devise ways of communicating effectively with a mass audience.
“It was not as easy as attending to pupils in class. A chief is a coordinator. He educates the public in matters of education, security, health environment and public issues among other responsibilities. I had to find an effective way of communicating to my people on various issues and when expected to attend various activities and meetings. Texting and calling to a population of more than 29,000 was very expensive,” he said.
That need, Kariuki stated, birthed the desire to tweet often.
“One day, I got a text regarding a short code from Safaricom. I was curious and did some research on how it works. Within few minutes, I created my free Twitter account @ChiefKariuki. At home, my wife subscribed and followed me. I wrote a text on the account and she received it in a few seconds. I later invited youths, village elders and trained them on the new communication channel before calling a baraza where each individual followed me and was able to receive my tweets instantly,” he said.
In his 2015 interview with the Standard Newspaper, Kariuki said his new form of communication had helped reduce crime cases in the location by close to 90 per cent.
“Tweeting has reduced crime rate in my locality by 90 per cent. We have quick response in fighting any cropping crimes. For instance, if something happens, say a fire, I send the text once and within a span of time, there are rescuers handling the incident. I have more than 41,000 followers.”
Kariuki’s verified Twitter profile shows he joined the micro-blogging site in June 2011, and as of October 21, 2020, he had 59,600 followers, and was following 2,827 accounts.
His last tweet was posted on September 13, 2020, when he said: “[A motor] vehicle, silver in colour [of registration plate number] KAP 918P [has] just [been] stolen at Tuinuane, behind Catholic Church. [The vehicle has been] driven towards Muwa. If seen, call me [on] 0722666576.”
Kariuki had posted 10,700 tweets by the time of his death, his Twitter profile indicates.
In August 2015, Karikuki graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Counselling and Psychology from Mount Kenya University. The chief took the course through virtual classes.