It was the end of an era as Nicholas Kipyator Arap Biwott, popularly known as “Total Man” in his heydays, finally bowed out yesterday and went to join the ancestors. Coming a few days after Interior CS Retired General Joseph Nkaissery’s sudden demise, the country has yet again been thrown into mourning mode.
What the millennials below 30 years of age may not know is that the visibly frail man who breathed his last yesterday was without a doubt the most powerful minister in retired president Moi’s kitchen cabinet in the height of the KANU dictatorship.
This was at a time when, if you had to speak negatively about government, you had to look carefully over your shoulders to ensure that nobody was eavesdropping, before quickly speaking in hushed tones.
Otherwise, you would end up in the dreaded Nyayo House basement torture chambers with the ruthless “Special Branch” (Kenya’s version of KGB) leisurely skinning you alive or using you as a living punching bag.
His diminutive stature notwithstanding, the highly mysterious man be-straddled the Moi government like a titanic colossus and only inspired pure fear in both foe and friend. You couldn’t help but guess that even Moi somehow feared him and had no absolute control over the man who was always a heartbeat away from the presidency itself.
In fact, rumour had it that, any time Moi was choosing or reshuffling his cabinet, Biwott always chose the ministry he wanted to serve in as a cabinet minister. The man is also said to have inspired immortal fear in the then opposition brigade led by the NASA Presidential flag bearer‘s late father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. Most of the vocal opposition figures trod carefully where Biwott was involved.
There was something utterly unsettling about his cold, piercing and calculating eyes. Apart from being arguably the richest KANU-era cabinet minister, who amassed immense wealth and was consequently named in several corruption scandals, Biwott will be remembered for many other things.
Perhaps what will forever remain etched in most Kenyans’ memories is his implication in the 1990 brutal murder of the then Foreign Affairs Minister John Robert Ouko. The gory assassination that shook the country to the core saw veteran Scotland Yard detective H.B. Troon land in the country to lead the investigations into the murder of the eloquent and highly respected top Kenyan diplomat.
Troon later adversely mentioned Nicholas Biwott as the prime suspect in the assassination of the late foreign affairs minister whose badly mutilated body was discovered in Got Alila, near his Muhoroni home, days after he went missing.
In December 2000, Biwott sued the printers and publishers of the book “Dr Ian West’s Case Book”, which was written by British journalist Chester Stern. In the book, which is based on narrations by Dr West who was the Scotland Yard pathologist involved in investigations into the death Dr Robert Ouko, Biwott is also fingered out as the prime suspect in the former foreign affairs minister’s brutal murder.
The Total Man also went ahead to sue Book Point, the Nairobi-based bookshop that distributed Dr Ian West’s book and won both cases. In a landmark ruling on the case against the publisher, High Court judge Alnasir Visram awarded Biwott a whopping 30 million in damages – the highest award ever for any defamation case in Kenyan history.
Book point was also ordered to pay the total man 10 million as defamation charges.
At the time of his death, the man had lost most of his former powerful stature in the Kenyan political landscape and was the leader of a nondescript political party that supports the Jubilee party and President Uhuru Kenyatta‘s re-election.
As the curtains come down on the once upon a time, Kenya’s most powerful, most mysterious, most feared and perhaps the most misunderstood former cabinet minister, all we can say -as mere mortals – is; let God be the judge.
The writer is a website content developer/copywriter/copy editor and SEO expert.
A global citizen who believes in human justice and dignity, Gilbert Kenya is also currently a student of Political Science, Psychology & Communication at The University of Nairobi.
An Aficionado of Local & Global Politics, alongside diverse genres of literature, he is fully persuaded that there is always enough to go round for all of us.
Gilbert writes for a living, but above all, lives and breathes writing. His favourite maxim is: "LIVE AND LET LIVE. While at it laugh and love more; you are not here forever!
When not writing, you will find Gilbert Kenya living happily with his lovely wife Betty and their two little angels, Ray and Ivy, in the great "City in the Sun" - Nairobi.
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