It did not take much to see that former President Daniel arap Moi enjoyed the company of Ezekiel Barng’etuny and Mark Too.
The two politicians, who were at one time nominated as Members of Parliament, rarely failed to amuse during public functions attended by Moi and other leaders.
Politicians from the North Rift often recounted how the president would invite the two charming and confident politicians to his Kabarak home where they would regale him with stories.
Although they both hailed from Nandi County, they had different backgrounds and contrasting theories on how they first met Moi and developed such a close bond.
Barng’etuny, who was famous for donning a cowboy hat and using a walking stick, was recognised as an efficient Kanu grassroots mobiliser.
A well-known event where he left the crowd and Moi in stitches was during the burial of former Keiyo North MP Paul Chepkok in 1995.
Barng’etuny, whose name translates to lion killer in Kalenjin, said, “Kama Chepkok naamka sahii tafurahi alafu nasema funika mimi tena (if Chepkok resurrected and saw this crowd, he would be quite pleased then request to be buried again).”
But it was during the annual goat auctions held at Kimalel grounds in Baringo that Barng’etuny was truly in his element as he entertained the president and hundreds of politicians who accompanied him to the day-long event.
Pointing at the fattened billy goats, he would shout, “Elfu mia moja kwangu, elfu mia mbili kwangu (one hundred thousand for me, two hundred thousand for me) so that when fellow buyers made their bids, the asking price would sometimes be over Sh500,000.
But the highlight of his marketing gimmicks always came when it was time for the president to make his bid. “Milioni moja kwa mzee! Milioni moja kwa rais! Nyamaza kama tapnyole (one million for the elder! one million for the president! Hold your peace like a respectable old woman).
Barng’etuny was also credited with grooming young politicians like Henry Kosgey and ending the career of non-conformists and Moi critics like Jean Marie Seroney.
Seroney, a lawyer who trained in India, did not appear to have much respect for Moi. Barng’etuny would come in handy when time came to deal with the MP and other rebels in Nandi. A politician who spoke to The Standard credited Barng’etuny with convincing 32-year-old Kosgey to resign from Kenya Breweries Ltd and, with the overt support of Moi, beat Seroney in the 1979 parliamentary elections.
“Moi told Kosgey to ensure that all children in Nandi got quality education and that none lacked school fees. That is why he endeared himself to the electorate in Tinderet and across Nandi for many years,” said the long-serving Kanu official from Aldai.
These were the same values that Barng’etuny embraced. He constructed the Lelgotet Africa Inland Church in Tinderet, an area that was predominantly Catholic, and became a church elder. And just like Moi he never missed Sunday service.
Barng’etuny also served as a political barometer and would often organise rallies during tense times to test the kind of reception Moi would get in certain areas.
He called off a Kanu campaign meeting at Mulango near Eldoret Airport in 2007 after the youth chanted mi ODM muguledo (ODM is in our hearts) as they demanded handouts. The president followed proceedings from his home in Ziwa.
With Moi’s support, Barng’etuny entered into the real estate business and constructed two buildings in Eldoret and Kapsabet towns, both aptly named Barng’etuny Plaza.
The politician, who died aged 92, was buried at his Maraba farm in Tinderet. He had reportedly told friends that his wish was that Moi attends his burial, a desire that was fulfilled.
Too’s relationship with Moi was deeper, with the politician playing the role of power broker and Mr Fixit.
He took a keen interest in the management of Moi’s properties in the region, among them tea estates and other farming interests.
Despite dropping out of school in Standard Eight, Too was a strategist and Moi was comfortable deploying him as a peace envoy to Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique.
The late South Sudan President John Garang was a frequent visitor at his Eldoret home before leaders from the newly independent country signed a peace agreement in Nairobi.
Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama from Mozambique also frequently visited Eldoret to meet Moi’s private envoy as he continued with his campaign against the communist-aligned leaders of the ruling Frelimo Party in Maputo.
One of Moi’s key development agenda in Nandi region was to improve education standards, a task he entrusted on Too who would diligently convey the president’s contribution during harambees that were held every other weekend.
The result was that schools like Chepterit and Kapsabet girls acquired modern infrastructure.
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