Nicholas Biwott

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Nicholas Biwott
Born Kipyator Nicholas Kiprono arap Biwott
1940
Chebior village, Keiyo District, Rift Valley Province, Kenya
Nationality Kenyan
Other names Kiprono Kipyator
Education Kapsabet High School
Alma mater University of Melbourne
Occupation
  • Civil servant
  • Member of Parliament
  • Government minister

Kipyator Nicholas Kiprono arap Biwott (born 1940) is a Kenyan businessman, politician and philanthropist. Biwott has served as a civil servant, Member of Parliament and government minister, during which time he has held eight senior ministerial positions, worked alongside Kenya's first three presidents – Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki – and with many significant public figures in post independence Kenya, including Bruce McKenzie besides Tom Mboya.

Early life[edit]

Biwott was born in Chebior village, Keiyo District, Rift Valley Province in 1940. His mother Maria Soti and his father Cheserem, a market trader in Eldoret. Cheserem was initially a cattle herder and developed herds of cattle, sheep as well as goats. Biwott grew up herding these flocks in keeping with Kalenjin tradition. As a teenager and young man Biwott worked alongside his father and together they were market traders in Eldoret.

Education[edit]

  • 1951–1954: Tambach Intermediate School, Tambach Rift Valley Province;
  • 1955–1958: Kapsabet High School, Rift Valley Province;
  • [In 1959, Biwott began working at the Department of Information in Eldoret. Later, together with Kendagor Bett, he published the Kalenjin Monthly newsletter].
  • February–December 1961: George Taylor University, Melbourne, Australia;
  • February 1962 – Dec 1964: University of Melbourne, Australia: Bachelor of Commerce, Diploma in Public Administration: majored in Economics and Political Science.
  • [December 1964 – 1965: Office of the President, Government of Kenya: employed by Office of the President seconded to Administration and appointed District Officer Nkubu, South Imenti Division, Meru District (see ‘Service in Government of Kenya’, below)].
  • 1966: Course at Public Administration at Kenya Institute of Administration, Nairobi.
  • March 1966–68: Commonwealth scholarship to study Masters in Economics at University of Melbourne, Australia (MCom (Prl).

Political career[edit]

Biwott was a member of parliament for 28 years. In 1974 he ran unsuccessfully as a prospective MP for the Keiyo South Constituency. At the next election in 1979 he was successful, standing on KANU ticket in Keiyo-Marakwet, retaining the seat in 1983 and 1988. In 1992, 1997, and 2002 he was elected the MP for Keiyo South Constituency. In the Parliamentary elections held on 27 December 2007, running on a KANU ticket, he lost his seat to Jackson Kiptanui arap Kamai of the Orange Democratic Party (ODM). The ODM swept to victory in all but one of KANU's seats on the Rift Valley.

Following the 2002 election, Biwott served on the Devolution Committee of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission. Biwott was the only Member of Parliament, however, he abstained on the Constitutional Referendum held in 2005, stating that the Draft Constitution 'would divide the country along ethnic lines'. The draft Constitution was rejected at the Referendum.

More recently, Biwott has fought an election for leadership of KANU, the former party of government and now the official opposition, following years of decline in KANU political fortunes but lost the post to Uhuru Kenyatta following a decision by the Kenyan High Court.

Service in government of Kenya[edit]

District Officer[edit]

Biwott entered government service in 1965 as the District Officer in South Imenti and Tharaki, Meru District (Jan 1965–66). As District Officer Biwott instituted, on a 'harrambe' basis, community fund-raising programmes to aid the development of local irrigation projects and roads, to build a health centre at Nkwene and schools at Nkubu and Kanyakini, develop employment at the Egoji quarries and promote the planting of coffee and tea. He was also actively involved in the resettlement of previously European owned land through the 'Land Transfer' programme, part of the 'Million Acres' scheme, and played a central role in the rehabilitation of the Mau Mau, many of whom still remained in the Mau Forest four years after the end of the 'Emergency', helping to persuade them to give up violence and organising the resettlement of many on to their own land.[citation needed]

Ministry of Agriculture[edit]

Having completed his master's degree in Australia in 1968, Nicholas Biwott returned to public service in the Ministry of Agriculture, GOK, Personal Assistant to Minister Bruce MacKenzie (1968–1970). He coordinated cereal production, the marketing of cereal crops and the management of the Ministry's fertiliser policy, and helped develop research into new strains of wheat and maize more suited to the growing conditions in Kenya. He played a similar co-ordinating role for the Ministry's work with the East African Council of Ministers (MacKenzie was also a member of the Council), guiding Kenya's policy in the region in the development of ports, railways and the East African Airways.

Treasury[edit]

In 1971 Nicholas Biwott moved to the Treasury as Senior Secretary under the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mwai Kibaki. In 1972 he created and headed the External Aid Division and technical assistance program dealing with external resources, bringing in experts and arranging cultural exchanges. Notably he helped facilitate the establishment of the French School in Nairobi (now called the Lycee Denis Diderot), the French Cultural Centre with the Alliance de Francais, and the German Frederick Ebert Stifftung Foundation in co-operation with the Gurter Institute.

Ministry of Home Affairs[edit]

In late 1972 Nicholas Biwott transferred to the Ministry of Home Affairs on the personal recommendation of President Kenyatta to work with his Vice-President and the Minister of Home Affairs, Daniel arap Moi.

In 1974 Biwott stood as a candidate for the Keiyo South constituency in the general election of that year but was narrowly defeated.

Following the 1974 election Nicholas Biwott was recalled to the Ministry of Home Affairs as Under Secretary (1974–1978) to Minister Daniel arap Moi, Kenya's Vice-President. With the ageing President Kenyatta unable to fulfil all the functions of the presidency, Moi took a leading role in the East African region with the result that Nicholas Biwott spent much of the next four years dealing with the Organisation of African Unity, the Commonwealth, the ‘non-aligned’ states and promoting the 'good neighbourliness' policy with states bordering Kenya.

Kenyatta's death in 1978 saw Daniel arap Moi elevated to the presidency and Nicholas Biwott promoted to Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President[1] (1978–1979).

Minister of State[edit]

Following the election of 1979 (in which he was elected Member of Parliament for 1979 Keiyo South election, a seat he retained until December 2007), Nicholas Biwott returned to the Office of the President but now promoted to Minister of State (1979–1982) with responsibility for science and technology, cabinet affairs, land settlement and immigration.

Under his auspices the Kenya Medical Research Institute[2] was established in the same year to carry out health science research in Kenya. (Now in its 31st year, KEMRI continues its work as “a leading centre of excellence in the promotion of quality health”).

Minister of Regional Development, Science and Technology[edit]

In September 1982 he was appointed Minister of Regional Development, Science and Technology. Learning from examples of other regional development policies, notably in Australia and Tennessee in the USA, he created two regional development authorities, the Lake Basin Development Authority and the Kerio Valley Development Authority.

Minister of Energy[edit]

In September 1983, Nicholas Biwott was made Minister of Energy and Regional Development and in March 1988 (following a reorganisation of ministry portfolios) he became Minister of Energy, a post he held until January 1991.

Over the next seven years he was instrumental in establishing the National Oil Corporation, the building of National Oil storage facilities near Nairobi and connecting them to the Mombasa refinery, and extending the pipeline from Nairobi to Kisumu and Eldoret. This period that saw rapid advances in efforts to improve Kenya's electricity supply and delivery with a rural electrification programme, work beginning on the Sondu Mirei Dam, and the completions of the Masinga Multi Purpose Dam, the Kiambere Hydro Electric Dam and the Turkwell Hydro Electric Multi Purpose Dam.

Minister of East African and Regional Co-operation[edit]

Although he remained a member of parliament, Biwott held no position in the Government of Kenya from 1991 until he re-entered government as Minister of State in the Office of the President of East Africa in 1997 before, in January 1998, he established and was appointed Minister of the new Ministry of East African and Regional Co-operation (1998–1999).

Nicholas Biwott played a central role in COMESA – the Common Market for East and Central Africa, co-ordinating with COMESA partner Ministers legislation for an East African Road network, legislation for an East African Legislative Assembly, and becoming Chairman of both COMESA and of the East Africa Council of Ministers.

Minister of Trade and Industry, Tourism and East African Cooperation[edit]

In September 1999 Biwott's ministerial portfolio was expanded when he became Minister of Trade and Industry, Tourism and East African Cooperation (1999–2001), a post he held for the next three years during which he established a Tourist Trust Fund[3] with the European Union, set up the Tourist Police and re-introduced the East Africa Safari Rallies.

Biwott's promotion of Kenyan tourism met with some praise. He was variously described as "the hardest working minister of tourism Kenya has ever had"[4] and as "the best minister of tourism in 25 years".[5]

In May 2001 (following a further reorganisation of Ministry responsibilities) Nicholas Biwott continued as the Minister of Trade and Industry and East African Tourism (2001–2002). Over the next eighteen months he established the Small Medium Trade Trust Fund with the European Union, introduced an Intellectual Property bill which was passed as an Act, accomplished a free trade area with COMESA, established the Africa Trade Insurance Agency[6] to cover foreign investments against political risk, and served as Chairman of the African Caribbean Pacific Group (ACP) at the World Trade Organisation.

Businessman[edit]

Biwott leads an active business life and is regarded as one of Kenya's most successful entrepreneurs.

As a teenager in the late 1950s Biwott worked alongside his father who had established a successful fruit and vegetable business in Eldoret. The young Biwott also borrowed small amounts of money from a local bank with which to expand his own business sideline selling meat products and eggs. Nicholas Biwott continued to expand his own business and in the late 1960s formed ABC Foods selling food and animal feed products.

Within a few years Nicholas Biwott was able to invest in farms and businesses, taking advantage of the post-independence banking policies at the time by which Kenyans were granted loans on favourable terms. In 1969, aged 29, Biwott purchased the Eldoret Town International Harvester (IH) dealership (now FMD trading as Lima Ltd). He also purchased a dairy farm in the same year, started an importer exporter business in 1972, purchased two wheat farms in 1974, invested in the sole agency for IH in Kenya for agricultural tractors and implements in 1975, and purchased a local air operator in 1977 (now Air Kenya).

Biwott's business philosophy of purchasing small or failing businesses, investing and re-investing in them over many years, appears to have paid dividends. He is now regarded as one of Kenya's wealthiest businessmen.

Biwott's businesses in Kenya employ thousands of people and one company of which he is the major shareholder, has for many years been listed among Kenya's top 10 corporate taxpayers.

Philanthropist[edit]

Since 1980 Nicholas Biwott has been a member and trustee both of the Management Committee and the Advocacy, Publicity and Fundraising Committee of The National Fund for the Disabled of Kenya.[7]

Biwott continues to expand and develop the scope of his charitable work, most recently in 2008 establishing the Mbegu Trust (go to Mbegu Trust)[8] 'to develop education and opportunity in Kenya'.

Nicholas Biwott is on record over the last 40 years of supporting many projects in the areas of education, health and medicine, and assisting small businesses.

Educational projects[edit]

Nicholas Biwott has raised and contributed funds for the building of some 16 schools, serving as chairman of the board for many of them.

He has built and funded two of these schools in their entirety:

  • The Biwott Secondary School
  • The Maria Soti Educational Centre

The Maria Soti Educational Centre, a model school for girls from all backgrounds and areas of Kenya, has been built near Eldoret by Nicholas Biwott as a tribute to his mother.

He has also raised and contributed funds for the building and expansion of:

  • Tambach Teachers Training College (and currently serves as chairman of the board)
  • The Flax Polytechnic
  • The Chepsirer Polytechnic
  • The Chepkorio Polytechnic

Nicholas Biwott is also a founder and Patron of the Keiyo South Education Foundation that provides bursaries to needy students from primary to post secondary education.

Funding health and medicine[edit]

In the area of health and medicine Nicholas Biwoot has raised and contributed funds for the building of Sub District Hospitals including;

  • The Kaptarakwa Sub District Hospital
  • The Kacholwo Sub District (Maternity) Hospital

The building or expansion of Health Centres, including;

  • Chepkorio Health Centre
  • Kapmwosor Health Centre
  • Muskut Health Centre

The building of Dispensaries, including;

  • The Kiptulos Dispensary
  • The Lelboinet Dispensary
  • The Flax Dispensary
  • The Simotwo Dispensary
  • The Kipsaos Dispensary
  • The Chang’ach Barak Dispensary (venomous bites)
  • The Chang’ach Barak Dispensary (general)
  • The Cheplooch Dispensary

Controversy[edit]

Nicholas Biwott’s name has been raised, ‘perhaps unfairly’[9] by his detractors both inside and outside Kenya regarding several controversies all which have date their origins to the years 1990–91. His supporters maintain that the allegations, none of which have ever been proved, arose from the campaign at the time to introduce multi-party democracy in Kenya coupled with Biwott's association with President Moi.

Biwott was named by Scotland Yard detective John Troon as a person of interest in the 1990 murder of Kenya's Foreign Affairs minister Robert Ouko. Troon's theories and the basis for them as to the motives for the murder have since been criticised.

Ten government officials, including Biwott, were held in police custody for questioning for two weeks in November 1991[10] but a Kenyan Police investigation concluded that there was no 'evidence to support the allegations that Biwott was involved in the disappearance and subsequent death of the late minister Dr. Robert John Ouko'.[11]

In December 2003, Biwott issued a formal complaint against New Scotland Yard through his lawyer on the basis that Troon's investigation was 'fundamentally flawed and, in many cases erroneous' and called on New Scotland Yard 'to investigate Troon' and to issue an apology. The request was ultimately turned down in December 2004 by the Metropolitan Police as the original investigation 'did not involve any UK "victim", potential suspect, or even witnesses', and because 'the resources of the Metropolitan Police are limited'. Another reason given for the refusal by the Metropolitan Police to review the case was that the Kenyan Parliamentary Select Committee was investigating the death of Dr Robert Ouko and that it was 'open to Mr Biwott to make any representations he wishes to that Inquiry'. The Select Committee's proceedings, however, were abruptly terminated as Nicholas Biwott began to give his testimony.[12]

To date, the allegation that Biwott was involved in the murder of Dr Robert Ouko has never been factually substantiated. In a recent broadcast (March 2017) by Citizen TV, Episode Six "Lingering Doubts and Further Investigations," it is explained why the allegations against Nicholas Biwott were false, and summarise "It may be a hard truth for many Kenyans to swallow, but Nicholas Biwott clearly had no involvement in the murder of Robert Ouko.[13]

In 2000, a Nairobi court awarded Mr Biwott record damages of Sh30 million arising from a case in which he sued a British journalist, Chester Stern, and others for linking him to the Ouko murder in a book entitled 'Dr Iain West's Casebook'. Chester Stern and the book's publishers, Little Brown, stated that they would "vigorously defend" the action but ultimately they did not do so and the case was uncontested.[14] Earlier Biwott won Sh10 million from Bookpoint, a popular Nairobi bookshop, for stocking copies of the book Dr Ian West's Casebook.

In 1993 the 'Goldenberg scandal' came to light in which the Kenyan government was found to have subsidised exports of gold by paying a company, Goldenberg International Ltd (GIL), 35 percent more (in Kenyan shillings) than the foreign currency earnings supposedly derived from the sale of gold. The scheme had begun in 1991 and is estimated to have cost Kenya the equivalent of more than 10 percent of its annual Gross Domestic Product. A Commission of Inquiry headed by Mr Justice Bosire reported its findings in October 2005 stating that Sh158.3 billion [$2.1 billion] of Goldenberg money had been transacted through 487 companies and individuals. 1,559 'Adverse Notices' were issued against companies and individuals but although Nicholas Biwott was included on that list he was only mentioned directly or indirectly in three of the reports 847 paragraphs and the report, together with subsequent revelations would seem to absolve Biwott of any involvement in the scandal.

The Report of the Judicial Commission of Enquiry into the Goldenberg Affair[15] (to which Nicholas Biwott was not summonsed to appear) states on para 511 that Lima Limited, of which Biwott was shareholder and director, was 'said (to) have received Kshs.6,300,000.00 [$84,000] from GIL'. However, it was subsequently revealed that the payment to Lima Ltd, a company that sold farm machinery and equipment, was made not from GIL but by Tandui Estates Ltd for the purchase of farm equipment, including a number of tractors and other machinery. Paragraph 693 of the same report mentions Biwott in conjunction with a payment of KShs. 6,000,000 [$80,000], which involved Trade Bank Ltd, Pan-African Bank Ltd and Liabilities of H.Z. & Co. Ltd. The Commission concluded however, that 'no moneys of Goldenberg were involved'.

Biwott is now but one name on a long list of Kenyan politicians and civil servants associated with the Moi era to have travel restrictions imposed on them by the United States[16] and the UK[17][18] including most recently, in October 2009, Kenya's Attorney General Amos Wako, in what has been described by Kenya's Foreign Minister Moses Wetang'ula as "megaphone diplomacy".[19]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Statehousekenya.go.ke, Minister of State 1978–79
  2. ^ Kenya Medical Research Institute
  3. ^ Tourist Trust Fund
  4. ^ New York Times magazine, June 2004
  5. ^ Mahmud Jan Mohamed, Chairman of Kenya Tourism Federation, quoted in New York Times magazine, June 2004
  6. ^ African Trade Insurance Agency
  7. ^ NFDK.org.ke
  8. ^ The Mbegu Trust
  9. ^ Phombeah, Gray (29 November 2006). "Africa | Nicholas Biwott: Kenya's comeback king". BBC News. Retrieved 2012-03-08. 
  10. ^ "Murder at Got Alila". Who killed Dr Robert Ouko?..and Why?. WPMS/INCA/CitizenTV. 
  11. ^ Kenya Police, Report on Further Investigations into the Disappearance and Subsequent Death of the Late Hon. Dr Robert John Ouko
  12. ^ "Murder at Got Alila". Who killed Dr Robert Ouko?..and Why?. WPMS/INCA/CitizenTV. 
  13. ^ "Murder at Got Alila". Who killed Dr Robert Ouko? ...and Why?. WPMS/INCA/CitizenTV. 
  14. ^ ‘It’s Our Turn to Eat’ now in electronic bookshop Daily Nation
  15. ^ Report of the Judicial Commission of Enquiry into the Goldenberg Affair (pdf)
  16. ^ US revokes visa for key Moi ally BBC
  17. ^ UK travel ban for Kenyan minister BBC
  18. ^ [1] Revealed – Top names in U.S. Visa Ban List
  19. ^ "US slaps visa ban on govt official". nation.co.ke. 26 October 2009. Retrieved 2012-03-08. 
  • Cohen, David William & Odhiambo, E. S. Atieno (2004). The Risks of Knowledge: Investigations into the Death of the Hon. Minister John Robert Ouko in Kenya, 1990. Ohio University Press. ISBN 0-8214-1597-2. Ohio University

External links[edit]