Oloitiptip legacy lives on in Amboseli Park and his grandson
NATIONAL | By Amos Kareithi | October 28th 2021
While he lived, the hefty former Cabinet minister wore many hats and played different roles for successive regimes. There was never a dull moment for Stanley Shepashina Oloitiptip.
Although some of his peers considered him uneducated, as he never went beyond Class Four at Narok Government School, Oloitiptip was no pushover and pulled his weight. He also earned a reputation for throwing some of his own weight whenever he wanted to prove a political point.
When the country went up in flames in the 1950s, the colonial government thought it could rely on Oloitiptip, who had tasted action in the World War, to fight the Mau Mau but they were in for a rude shock when the outspoken young man who had acquired skills as a sharp dresser spoke.
He not only told off the government, but inspired his Ilaitayiok clansmen not to volunteer in the fight against the Africans agitating for freedom.
He later endeared himself to his community for speaking against their oppression and was instrumental together with John Keen in founding the Maasai United Front, which was exclusively formed to fight for the rights of his people.
He was picked as a delegate to go and argue for the return of Maasai lands that had been stolen by the government in 1904 and 1910.
He later joined Kadu, and was elected its national organising secretary. He was instrumental in the skirmishes that were witnessed in Ngong in November 1960 when Kanu leaders attempted to hold a political rally in his stronghold.
When Keen, his former friend turned foe, defected to Kanu, Oloitiptip had a field day in 1963 when he clinched the Kajiado South parliamentary seat after whitewashing Kanu. Keen had accused him of trying to cover the Maasai community with a blanket.
Oloitiptip, however, crossed over to Kanu soon after the elections, signalling the death of multi-party democracy in 1964.
In the course of his illustrious political career, the former Local Government minister was instrumental in the establishment of Amboseli National Park.
At first, elders fiercely opposed an idea mooted by American industrialist Royal Little to carve out 500 square kilometres to create a national park.
Oloitiptip used his influence to convince them to reconsider their decision and inexplicably rejected the park when the community changed its mind. He feared that his political detractors would accuse him of giving away their ancestral land.
It took the intervention of President Jomo Kenyatta to convince the assistant minister that the national park was for the common good. Even then, Kenyatta had to cede 130 square kilometres of the contested community land before the ‘King’ of the Maasai land could give his nod.
Oloitiptip is long gone and so are many of his political foes and peers. But his grandson, Lamu Senator Anwar Oloitiptip, is reliving some of the veteran politician’s battles while his contribution to conservation will live for as long as Amboseli National Park lives.
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