Growing up, Biwott was more than a man, he was a myth, a legend. He was more than a man, the stories we were told about him read like ‘Chuck Norris jokes’, he did not have a shadow, his face was bulletproof and if you stared too long in his eyes your soul would die. He was the quintessential larger than life character so prevalent in African History.
He was clearly on of the wealthiest people on the continent, if not the world, with conservative sources placing his wealth at over 500 billion shillings ($5 Billion). He was feared all over the country, and, presumably loved by a few. Some say he was a brilliant investor who grew his wealth through investments and was a noted philanthropist. Many, including your resident armchair historian, disagree.
Biwott was born in 1940, in Keiyo district, he attended Tambach Primary School where at the time, future President Moi was serving as principal. He was remarkably intelligent, and must have caught the eye of his principal, who for all intents and purposes turned him into the ‘Total Man’. He attended Kapsabet Government African School, finishing in 1958, at the height of the independence movement.
Moi, who was an MP at the legco at this time, convinced Kenneth Matiba (who was then in charge of scholarships at the Ministry of Education), to grant Biwott a scholarship to study in Australia. Whether he would have qualified for the scholarship without the aid of his mentor is certainly up to debate.
Mr Biwott studied for a Bachelor’s degree at the University of Melbourne between 1962 and 1964 and in 1966, he returned to get a Master’s degree in economics and a wife, Hannie — a Dutch of Jewish origin.
Rare Photo of Biwott and Wife
It was after his return that Mr Biwott immersed himself into the Jewish circles in Nairobi, earning the confidence of Mr Bruce Mackenzie (also confirmed to have been a Israeli spy), the politician whose commercial interests in Kenya included shareholdings in pivotal companies such as Cooper Motors Corporation (CMC), Wilken Air, and Wilken Telecommunications, which had won the tender to build Kenya’s first satellite earth station in Kenya.
In 1971, he became Moi’s personal secretary until 1974 when, with Moi’s blessing he ran for his home constituency in the 1974 election, but was trounced by the incumbent Mr. Stanley Kurgat. Luckily for him, he had a godfather (Jesus said that it is harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than a man without a godfather to make it in Kenya). Moi duly appointed him senior assistant secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture before transferring him to his docket, the Ministry of Home Affairs, on the recommendation of Mr Duncan Ndegwa, the first African governor of the Central Bank.
All in all, commentators agree that his chief political acumen was secrecy. No writer has painted Biwott as a brilliant investor, political genius or even a caring man. What led to his success was his undeniable loyalty to Moi, his legendary secrecy and unparalleled sadism.
As such his big break came in 1979, when Moi ascended to the throne (what? ati Kenya doesn’t have Kings? he he he). Moi compelled Mr. Kurgat to abandon his parliamentary seat in favor of Biwott, who ran unopposed and occupied the seat for 28 years. Immediately he won the election he was appointed Minister of State in the Office of the President alongside GG Kariuki – and the two became the most powerful politicians besides Charles Njonjo.
It is within this 28 years that through scandal, intimidation, corruption and probably multiple murders, Biwott created a business empire for himself and his mentor worth billions of shillings. Rannerberger recently called him ‘corrupt to the core’, and indeed he was the first Kenyan ever barred from the US for corruption charges.
Biwott, although not a shrewd politician, was a very shrewd corruption operative. Very few of his deals have come to light but those that have reveal a network of corruption that has brought Kenya to its knees. The first major scandal was the Turkwell Dam Project, where the Kroll report estimated that Biwott and his cronies siphoned off about $200,000,000.00 (that’s around 60 billion shillings adjusted for inflation)!
As a side note, the Kroll report although commissioned by the Kibaki government was never implemented. Wikileaks however have revealed the contents of the document which you can find here.
Biwott was also an avid land grabber, like any Kenyan politician worth his salt. He was caught red-handed when he tried to grab 1,000 acres of protected land under the Kaptaget forest. He had purported that his mother was a national heroine who deserved such allotment. This prime land is estimated to be worth around Kshs. 3.5M an acre at today’s prices (do the math Dumbo 3,500,000 X 1,000= a big shitload of cash).
Despite the fact that international laws on the protection of forests were clear that any one found destroying trees must be charged in court and the Kenya Government provides for similar action, Biwott and other elites who grabbed the forest land in Kenya has never been charged in court of law because they are politically connected individuals.
Ndung’u Report on Forest Land
While he claimed his mother as a Kenyan heroine to steal from Kenya’s heritage, a true Kenyan heroine prevented him, at least once, from continuing his plunder. Biwott’s company Lima Ltd. had been allocated 16 acres of Karura which it wanted to subdivide and sell at 60 million per acre (damn, this nigga was stealing), but protests led by Wangari Maathai stopped this (for this she won a Time Personality Award and the Nobel Peace Prize).
On instructions of ‘high ranking government officials’, Wangari was beaten, tortured and detained. She did not relent and her non violent protests for the environment garnered international support that eventually quashed the illegal allocation.
The incident that marks ‘Total Man’ however is the death of Minister Robert Ouko. A charismatic Luo politician with a strong anti corruption agenda. Ouko was knee-deep in investigating the Kisumu Molasses plant saga which had lined the pockets of Biwott personally. However before he could reveal his findings he was brutally tortured and murdered.
He was dragged from his home, severely beaten, his teeth were removed while still alive then he was shot and burned; carefully enough so that his face was still recognisable. Independent reports by the Scotland Yard, the Judiciary commission, the police and a special parliamentary committee all pointed the finger towards Biwott before investigations were summarily dismissed by State House.
One incident highlights the total man’s character, although he managed to keep most of his life secret, this incident became public. The ‘Bull of Auckland’ incident; he pulled a naked man. For those of you who do not know, a ‘naked man’ is a where you call a woman in and try to convince her to do the jigaloo with you by presenting your full naked form to them.
In this instance however, the man who scores 1/3 in the tall, dark and handsome department revealed himself to a random cleaning lady at his hotel room. The lady must have been a nun, or some sort of lesbian, as she resisted the allure of ‘Total Man’ and ran away to report him to the authorities. The twist was, this happened in Auckland, Australia, where the total man’s powers (such as his death stare) do not work. A diplomatic row ensued, and the Foreign Affairs Minister then , Hon. Kalonzo Musyoka, had to quickly sneak him out of the country.
He built an empire including the largest single farm in Australia, several banks, hotels, insurance companies etc. All this was built on a foundation of secrecy. He is said to have never slept in the same house twice (he owned six homes in Eldoret alone), he owned five mobile phones (none registered in his name), and never ate or drank in a public place. Secrecy in itself is not a bad thing, but as Bill Meyers put it;
Secrecy is the freedom tyrants dream of.
His political career thrived between 1979 to 2007, bestrode on the coattails of his mentor Daniel Moi, but when Moi’s career ended, so did his. He won only one election without his mentor, barely clinching his parliamentary seat in 2002.
He also failed to take control of KANU from Uhuru Kenyatta until it was nothing more than a shell of its former self. Finally in 2007 he was trounced by little known Jackson Kiptanui of ODM.
With his departure from public politics, and his famed secrecy, Biwott more or less dissapeared from the limelight until 11th July 2017 when he passed on in one of his many Nairobi homes. He will be missed, not by me, not by many, but I’m sure he will be missed.