September 19th 2017

Business / News

The former powerful cabinet minister Biwott passes on at 77

Mr Biwott fought for the leadership of Kanu with President Uhuru Kenyatta before finally forming his National Vision Party of Kenya (NVP). Things changed and he had endorsed Mr Kenyatta for a second term in office and was one of the key opinion leaders he was relying on to campaign in the North Ri

By Lucy Mwihakilmwihaki@kenyafreepress.comTuesday, 11 Jul 2017 14:09 EAT

Nicholas Kipyator Biwott

Former powerful Cabinet Minister during President Daniel arap Moi’s 24-year rule, Nicholas Kipyator Biwott is dead. The late Biwott, according to his personal assistant died in Nairobi, following a long illness. He has been in and out of hospital. His body has been moved to Lee Funeral Home.

During his hey days, Mr Biwott who was so powerful that he was nicknamed “Total Man’ died at the age of 77. His death increases the list of prominent personalities who have passed on including former Interior CS major General (rtd) Joseph Nkaissery and also former Interior Cabinet Minister G.G Kariuki. The burial of the three is yet to take place.

Mr Biwott was born in 1940 in the Rift Valley and served as a public servant in the government of Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta before Moi appointed him as his personal assistant. Thereafter, when Moi became President, Biwott was appointed a cabinet minister.

Mr Biwott bestrode Kenya’s political landscape like a colossus in the post 1982 attempted coup era —helping retired President Daniel Moi deal with the growing opposition.

Most of his peers hold that when the story of Moi is exhaustively told, Biwott will occupy a good number of chapters. Even though Moi had four vice presidents during his tenure, it was an open secret that 'Total Man' was closest to the Head of State and his word was law.

Mr Biwott fought  for  the leadership of Kanu with President Uhuru Kenyatta before finally forming his National Vision Party of Kenya (NVP). Things changed and he had endorsed Mr Kenyatta for a second term in office and he was one of the key opinion leaders Uhuru was relying on for support in the North Rift.

For a man who was an MP for 28 years representing Keiyo South Constituency, the loss to ODM’s Jackson Kiptanui Kamai in 2007 dealt a humiliating blow to Mr Biwott who had himself became an institution in Kenya's politics.

It is worth noting that before he formed his Party, Total Man's faction in Kanu had lost  control of the party to another wing led by  Uhuru Kenyatta following a successful petition in the High Court.

 Biwott's name was linked to most of the major scandals in the country under  Moi's 24-year rule, including ethnic clashes in 1992 and 1997. None of the allegations were ever proved and most of his supporters maintain that he was made a scapegoat just because he had Moi's ear. The most private of men, not much is known about Mr Biwott's early days or personal life. He is known to have received his university education in Australia, but there is no mention about his early education in Kenya.

 Biwott entered politics in 1974 - almost 10 years after Kenya became independent from British rule - and later became personal assistant to Moi when he was vice-president. It was this kind of association that prepared him for bigger things when Moi assumed the presidency in 1978.

Standing at just over five-feet tall, grey and  deceptively shy, Mr Biwott's demeanour in public is in sharp contrast to his unpopular image. Mr Biwott's life of secrecy described by many as a man obsessed with security, frequently switching cars when travelling and never accepting drinks or meals brought to him in restaurants.

When he was named as a prime suspect in the 1990 murder of the then foreign minister, Robert Ouko,  Moi fired him and later ordered his arrest. But after a short stint in remand and a slightly longer stay in the political doghouse after the charges were dropped, Biwott returned to the good graces of  Moi.

But even after a remarkable comeback, he appeared to have entirely failed to shift his popularity off the floor. By the time  Moi bowed out in 2002,  he  failed to capture the top position Moi occupied in the Kanu Party.

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