Kiplagat: A mind all young Kenyans should emulate

With the departure this week of Bethuel Abdul Kiplagat and Kipyator Nicholas Kiprono Biwott, Kenya lost two of its most effective and most colourful leaders of all time.

Yet it will be difficult to find two other leaders whose social attitudes and personal styles are more conflicting.

I know it because I was privileged to work very closely with both Mr Biwott and Mr Kiplagat on different occasions.

In 1956, “Kipsy”, as many of us endearingly came to know Bethuel, was our school captain at Alliance High, when the whole school knew him, not as Bethuel, but as Abdul.

For he had entered Kikuyu, not as a Christian, much less as a Protestant, but as a Muslim – probably the first Muslim youngster ever to enter that redoubt of Europe’s  Anglo-Scottish Christian Protestantism.


I do not accurately recall the ethical conditions which had so effectively moved the young man into doffing the Arab Muslim name Abdul in order to assume the Euro-Christian Israelite counterpart Bethuel. 

But I know that Bethuel Kiplagat worked wholeheartedly for the Euro-Christian Church, both in Geneva, Switzerland, where he would for a long time be attached to the World Council of Churches, and then in Nairobi. 

It was in that small Alpine Swiss city that Bethuel Kiplagat met the petite and classy Malagasy lady who would soon become his wife.

It was in Geneva, too, that an equally large-minded Ugandan called James Oporia-Ekwaro – working for a world youth movement – would soon marry another Malagasy lady called Michou (a short form of the French name Micheline, though I have never known how the short form is really spelt).


James Ekwaro it was, too, who brought many of us, Geneva’s East Africans, together into closer friendship, defined by a quest for deeper knowledge of the human world, especially of Eastern Africa.

In Nairobi, Kipsy and James had been brought together by an American Christian missionary activist called Janice McLaughlin, whose acquaintance I myself had made in Dar es Salaam in the early 1970s.

But, no, there were many social issues on which Bethuel  Kiplagat and I did not agree.

However, total agreement on ideals is never absolutely essential in order for two or more individuals to work together effectively for their society.

What is necessary is only a mind which is always open to new information – a mind, namely, which is dedicated to learning new things and discarding all the wrong assumptions hitherto secreted in the mind about the human world.


This is important so as to create room in the minds both of the individual and of his or her society in which to weigh all new information and channel all appropriate ones into working out a new and more accurate formula for the qualitative transformation of one’s society.

That, I think, is the quest to which all young Kenyans should devote their minds and their hands.

It should be the fulcrum of all their friendships and even their romantic appointments if their country is to develop with technical speed and social quality.


That is what is essential if we want to transform Kenya from a country in which all individuals are suspicious of the aims of all other individuals into a country in which all individuals are united into a single all-friendly purpose.

I don’t know how Kiplagat got along with Biwott, especially when they served President Moi, a man whose dictatorial methods can be attributed to his lack of formal education.

But I know this: Bethuel Kiplagat had a highly educated mind to which all young Kenyans must aspire.

 [email protected] 

The upcoming General Election will not be the end of our lives

Anxiety on continent as Kenya, Rwanda and Angola prepare for polls