He struggled through his childhood, lost his parents and had to educate himself and his younger siblings. But now at 27 years, Duke Mainga Echeta is the Minister for Youth, Sports and Culture in Kisii county. He shares his journey with Harriet James
On October 17, 2017, at exactly 10 in the morning, Duke Mainga Ondiba was at his friend’s house at Suneka town, Kisii.
Little did he know that on this date, he was about to receive great news that would change his life. He was named the new Minister for Youth, Sports and Culture in Kisii county.
“It was a humbling experience. Immediately after that, the Governor of Kisii, Hon James Ongwae called and sent me out to work at Kenyenya in Bomachoge, Borabu Sub-county,” says the down to earth Duke.
This exciting news sparked waves of congratulatory messages to this young vibrant leader who is currently among the youngest county executive committees in the country. However, his leadership skills did not just begin with this major appointment.
Born on October 10, 1991 in Kenyenya village, Kisii county, Duke was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His father was a primary school teacher and his mother a farmer. This third born in a family of four confesses that despite all the hardship, his childhood was marked with genuine love from his parents.
“Poverty was a major challenge for my family. My dad used to work hundreds of kilometres away from home. I hate it when I remember what my mum would undergo to put a meal on our table,” he recalls.
Duke went to Kenyenya Primary School, a local primary school where he sat for his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education in 2006 emerging the best that year. Thereafter, he was admitted to Kisii High School where he sat for Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education in 2010.
Later on, he would join Moi University to pursue his law degree in 2011. But just at the age of 19 years, he became an orphan making it impossible to pursue his education for lack of fees. His mum had passed on in 2008 while his dad died in 2011.
He was faced with a new challenge of caring his younger sister. “Life was unbearable more so, when it dawned on us that mum and dad were no more. Raising my younger sister , who was 10 year then was my main challenge, but I thank God, we managed,” he reveals
Duke came back home from university and started a small timber and hotel business. Things began to look up again and in the year 2012, after accruing some profits, he joined Kisii University for a degree in English and Literature. He graduated in 2015. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in International relations at the University of Nairobi.
“Through this business, I raised a little income that supported me to pay school fees for myself and my younger sister in upper primary by then,” he says “I chose to study in a university nearer to my small business and family that depended on me,” he adds.
He honed his leadership skills while at the university where he contested and unanimously got elected to the position of the head of the sports and entertainment docket in the students’ Governing Council.
As he recalls, this position opened up ways for him to be recognised as a person with a great unique leadership qualities propelling him to become the secretary general for all the university students from both Kisii and Nyamira counties.
Besides student leadership, he has been serving as the Bomachoge, Borabu and Kisii county youth leader plus many more youthful organisations, mostly charitable.
“Many of those that know me right from my childhood say that I was naturally born a politician. I used to settle disputes as early as age seven. I can recall of instances where people gathered around me to listen to me speak. I slightly discovered this in my late years of high school, but it became more vivid when I got elected into university student leadership,” Duke says.
He began looking for a political mentor as his passion for politics grew, And Kisii Senator, Chris Obure played that part.
It is this passion that landed him the job as the Minister for Youth, Sports and Culture in Kisii county. Though the experience has been thrilling so far, he still faces a lot of challenges in redeeming the image of the youth, who in his own words have been seen as goons and unfocused.
“I thank God that we are so far disapproving this notion through the positive engagements from all the youths in various leadership positions in our country. If this trend continues, I am highly optimistic of an influx of more youths into holding not only political but also senior government and corporate positions,” he notes.
Among other agendas that he has initiated include the construction of a standard Gusii Stadium and also, with the assistance of his team, he has lobbied for the honours to host this year’s Kenya Inter-County Sports Association (KICOSCA) games. In addition, he has managed to transform five street children into brilliant and promising school-going children, something that he hopes to continue doing.