Johana Ngeno: The MP who doesn’t take prisoners

Johana Kipyegon Ng’eno is controversy in motion. For those who understand Kenya’s poetics of survival, the Emirua Dikirr Member of Parliament is a chameleon that refuses to fall off a tree despite a whirlwind.

Back in his constituency, Ng’eno (pictured) is popularly known as ‘Ngong’ a Maasai name for a person with squinted eyes.

On Monday the 47-year-old legislator was arrested at Kimogoro trading centre in his constituency for holding what police called an illegal Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) rally.

Before his arrest, the MP was moderating discussions with his constituents apparently to prepare views to present to the BBI steering committee.

In a two-minute-long clip, he can be seen in a black baseball cap, a T-shirt and black Jeans denim being handcuffed as he shouts on top of his voice.

“Shika Ledama pia…mimi pia ni mwanaume, leta pingo unifunge,” (Arrest Ledama [Narok Senator] too…I’m also a man, handcuff me), Ng’eno shouts as he protests his arrest.

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He was condemning his arrest as he called for the arrest of Narok Senator Ledama Olekina who was criticised over his remarks that were seen to be divisive during the BBI rally.

The senator was arrested on Tuesday morning.

Emurua Dikir MP Johana Ng'eno with his fiance Naiya Ntutu in a selfie dated August 7, 2018. [File, Standard]
Ng’eno is no stranger to high-octane politics and doesn’t mind having his way when it suits his convictions.

He exhibited this when he and Narok Deputy Governor Evalyin Aruasa walked out of a BBI meeting in Narok graced by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga on February 21.

The duo cited ethnic profiling and argued that non-Maasai leaders had been side-lined in the BBI discussions, which was conducted in Maasai language.

The two, reportedly exited the building after daughter of former minister William Ole Ntimama, Leah Ntimama, alleged that Narok ought to have had governor and the deputy both from the community.

But contrary reports from the meeting suggested that the two were given a chance to address the meeting, but instead decided to walk out.

Defying odds

Just a few months to the 2017 General Election, Ng’eno decided to punch above his political weight. Amidst political heat in the Rift Valley as politicians allied themselves with Deputy President William Ruto and Jubilee, Ng’eno and former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto defied him.

As Isaac vied on a Chama Cha Mashinani party ticket while Ng’eno remained vocal against the DP, even at the expense of his political future.

Nge’eno’s dalliance with former Isaac blossomed as they traversed the Rift Valley campaigning.

At the time, Ng’eno was accused of incitement and arson in the Mau Forest where several houses were burnt as the government tried to evict settlers in 2016.

In the August 2017 General Election, Ng’eno defied the odds and won the Emurua Dikirr parliamentary seat on a Kanu ticket.

He garnered 16,098 votes against Jubilee’s David Keter who managed 13,707. He then took a dig at DP Ruto and the area Governor Samuel ole Tunai for funding his competitor.

“The people of Emurua Dikirr have spoken not because of petty things like handouts but a development that will change their lives. My tough stand on national issues made the DP use all means to ensure I was not re-elected,” he said.

About-turn

His rebellion against Jubilee and DP Ruto was however short-lived. He changed tune and befriended them barely a month after the poll.

His ally, Isaac lost the Bomet governor’s race to the late Joyce Lamboso.

Another storm would then emerge against Ng’eno in February 2018. This time, his rival David Keter of Jubilee challenged his election in court citing electoral malpractices and violence.

Ng’eno got his relief back on February 7, 2018, when the High Court in Narok upheld his election declaring that no electoral malpractices were proven.

“I spent all my time in court instead of carrying out my constitutional mandate to serve my people, he said, adding a homecoming ceremony will take place on,” he said after Justice Justus Bwonong’a delivered the ruling.

What ensued were songs and dance as his supporters celebrated court verdict. They were addressed by Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter-a fierce DP Ruto critic at the time.

Ng’eno was elected to Parliament in 2013. The Maseno School alumnus holds a Master’s Degree in International Studies from the University of Nairobi, LLB from Mt Kenya University and Bachelor of Arts in International Law from Kyiv TSN University, Ukraine.

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Johana Kipyegon Ng’enoEmurua Dikirr MPBBINarok rallyJubilee