Dr. Taaitta Araap Toweett (May 1925–8 October 2007) was a Kenyan writer, linguist and politician.
Toweett was born in May 1925 at Tebesoonik, near Litein, in Kisyaara Location, Kericho District, Kenya. His father Cheelogoi Araap Maeero (who died in 1976, aged 110) was originally from Mokomoni, North Mugirango, and his mother was Tapaase Temugo (who died in 1934). He had a younger sister, Christina Turgut, and younger brother, John Toweett. Toweett was educated at Chebwagan Primary School, African Government School in Kabianga (1939–43), Alliance High School in Kikuyu (1944–47), and at Makerere University College, where he studied Sociology, English Literature and History.
He decided to become a social worker and joined Jeans School, now Kenya Institute of Administration, Kabete, where he trained for social welfare work. He was appointed Welfare Officer in Kericho in 1950. In 1953 he worked briefly as a broadcaster with Voice of Kenya (VOK), African Service, Kisumu. He was awarded scholarship by the Kipsigis County Council in 1955 to the South Devon Technical College, Torquay, to study for a diploma in public and social administration. He obtained a B.A. (1956) and B.A. (Hons) 1959 from the University of South Africa. On his return from Britain in 1957, he was appointed Community Development Officer for Nandi District, the first African CDO to be recruited locally in Kenya. During this period was the editor of the Kipsigis vernacular magazine Ngalek Ap Kipsigisiek, published quarterly.
He was one of the eight original Africans elected to the Legislative Council in 1958 as Member for the Southern Area, a constituency comprising mainly Kipsigis and Maasai Districts. He formed Kalenjin Political Alliance Party that later on got into an alliance with KADU. He served on the Dairy Board and played a crucial role in the foundation of the co-operative movement nationally. In 1960, 1962, 1963 he attended the Lancaster House Conferences held in London to draft Kenya’s Constitution, paving the way for complete self-rule.
He was Appointed Assistant Minister for Agriculture (1960); re-elected to the Legislative Council IN 1961; appointed Minister of Labour and Housing IN 1961 AND Minister of Lands, Surveys and Town Planning IN 1962. He was elected KADU Member for Bureti Constituency in 1963. He joined KANU and resigned from Parliament. In 1969, he was returned to Parliament as Member for Buret and was appointed Minister for Education. He was re-elected to Parliament in the 1974 General Election and was appointed Minister for Housing and Social Services. He obtained his M.A. in Linguistics from the University of Nairobi, for which he had registered in 1973.
He became Minister for Education in 1976, and was elected President of the 19th General Assembly of UNESCO (1976–78), in 1977, he finished his Ph.D. thesis on “A Study Of Kalenjin Linguistics”.
He lost the General Election in 1979, but was appointed Chairman of Kenya Literature Bureau. He did not contest the 1983 General Election but returned to parliament as a nominated MP. From 1983 to mid-1985 he served as Chairman of Kenya Airways, from there he was appointed Chairman of Kenya Seed Company where he served until 1998. 1992-1997 he was back in parliament as a nominated MP. He also served as a Director of the Kenya Times newspaper, and published and edited his own newspaper, Voice of Rift Valley, from 1997 to 2000. From 2002 he wrote a weekly column in the Kenya Times called “Face To Face With Guru”. He was actively involved in the Constitution Review Process at Bomas of Kenya, 2003-04.
Dr. Toweett had a large diverse family with four wives; the late Rachel Chemibei, the late Rachel Chebet Taplule and Elizabeth Cherotich, Anna Kamaya. He has 32 children and over 40 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Weeks before he died he was dictating, from memory, his unique life story to one of his sons Joe Toweett, Director of the Taaitta Toweett Foundation, to compile into an autobiography. In his 1963 poem "Polygamy," he wrote: "my ambition is nil except for writing."
He died on 8 October 2007 after an automobile accident. The car he was traveling in collided head on with a canter truck a few kilometers from his Shimoni residence.
- Epitaph on Colonialism and Shorter Poems
- An Africans Year in England
- A Study of Kalenjin Linguistics (1979)
- English-Kiswahili-Kalenjin Dictionary (1979)
- English-Swahili-Kalenjin Nouns Dictionary
- Oral Traditional History of The Kipsigis (1980)
- Tears Over A Dead Cow and Other Stories
- 100 Daily Essays
- Unsung Heroes of Lancaster: Call a Spade a Spade Historical Memoirs (2011)
- Prof. Bethwell A. Ogot, Historical Dictionary of Kenya. ISBN 0-8108-1419-6
- Xhuuma Maseeti, The Seed.
- "Obituary - DR. Taaitta Araap Toweett" by Leo Odero Omolo, www.jaluo.com