Three widows of former powerful Cabinet Minister Nicholas Biwott were on Wednesday introduced to the hundreds who turned up to view his body at Biwott Day Secondary School in Keiyo South ahead of his burial on Thursday.
In an apparent move to clear the mystery around the extent of Biwott’s family, the three – Hannie Kiprono, Prof Margaret Kamar and Kalista Lessie – stood in front of the large crowd and held each other’s hands and expressed their sadness at losing a man they said had taken good care of them.
When the event’s master of ceremonies Albert Kochei, who is the County Assembly Speaker for Elgeyo Marakwet, asked Hannie, who was Biwott’s first wife, to address the crowd, the other two accompanied her to the stage.
Hannie spoke first in English and Prof Kamar translated into the local dialect.
Hannie said that she was instrumental in urging her husband to set up Mary Soti Secondary School in Keiyo South which was established in honour of Biwott’s late mother.
“Biwott never criticised his enemies. Despite his massive wealth he still mingled with the common man. He was committed to improving the economic livelihood of the Keiyo people,” said Hannie.
She recounted how she was surprised some time in the 1990s when Biwott was accused of murder and perpetrating corruption.
“I told him to buy space in a newspaper and defend himself but he declined, saying that it was above his dignity to fight back,” said Hannie.
She regretted negative publicity from the media about him, saying he was a nice person.
Hannie said that while at university with Biwott in Australia, she came to know him as a man of high principles.
She said that Biwott was a close friend of retired President Daniel Moi. “When people were abandoning Kanu, Biwott vowed to be by Moi’s side,” she said.
“Moi was my love rival because my husband loved him more and was always close to Moi,” said Hannie, amid laughter from the mourners, who included Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and other local leaders.
Prof Kamar, about whom speculation has persisted that she was Biwott’s wife, cleared the air when she introduced family members including her daughter Soti Maria, named after Biwott’s mother.
“I think we have to put this issue to rest once and for all. Now you have known nothing but the whole truth,” said Prof Kamar, who is Jubilee Party’s senatorial candidate for Uasin Gishu.
Lessie only introduced herself.
Biwott had seven children – six daughters and a son – who were all introduced on Wednesday. There was confusion on Tuesday during a requiem mass at AIC Milimani in Nairobi after Prof Kamar was not introduced as Biwott’s spouse. She was seated behind Hannie.
On Wednesday, Prof Kamar thanked Hannie for “taking care of Mzee (Biwott) at his younger age”.
“Thanks a lot mama. You are the cornerstone of this family,” said the former higher education minister, who lives on one of Biwott’s expansive farms in Chepkanga, on the outskirts of Eldoret.
Rotich said President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto would attend the former minister’s burial.