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Life and times of William ole Ntimama

COUNTIES
By STEVE MKAWALE and PATRICK KIBET | September 15th 2016
The late Ntimama (middle)shares his famous hearty laugh moment with former cabinet ministers Simeon Nyachae (left) and GG Kariuki (right). He was one of the longest serving politicians in the country. (PHOTO:FILE/ STANDARD)

Legendary politician William Ronkorua ole Ntimama, who was buried yesterday, was one of the longest serving politicians in the country.

He will be remembered for serving for 15 years as the powerful chairman of the defunct Narok County Council and for 25 years as an MP. He served as minister under  presidents Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki.

The veteran politician bestrode the Kenyan political landscape like the proverbial colossus, from the days of founding president Mzee Jomo Kenyatta to the present day, championing the rights of the Maasai.

His political career started in 1974 when he was elected chairman of the Narok County Council

Prior to the adoption of multiparty politics in 1990s, the late Ntimama was a staunch supporter of the then ruling party Kanu. During the Kanu era, he was vocal against multiparty politics.

VOCAL LEADER

However, after the advent of multiparty politics in the 90s, he decamped from Kanu and joined the Democratic Party (DP), then headed by retired President Mwai Kibaki.

He later joined the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) during the 2007 elections, and was elected to represent the Narok North Constituency between 2007 and 2013 when he lost to Moitalel Kenta of the defunct National Alliance (TNA) party.

He served the people of Narok North as an MP for 25 years before he retired from active politics on September 14, 2013.

The vocal Maasai leader who died of natural causes in his house in Narok County two weeks ago, had announced his intention to support President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election in 2017.

During his long political career, Ntimama distinguished himself as a great agitator and defender of Maasai rights. As a result, he gained unrivaled popularity in the community to become one of the most influential Masaai leaders.

But to other communities, the late Ntimama was a thorn in the flesh.

At the height of politically instigated ethic clashes of the 1990s, the late Ntimama warned members of a certain community living in his constituency to “lie low like an envelope.”

But in later years, he disowned the infamous remark.

“It was an antelope, but the press picked envelope and it became so popular. I didn’t want to interfere. It remains envelope in the books of history,” he later said in an interview with one of the local dailies.

In his pursuit for the rights of the Maasai community, the late Ntimama caused a stir when he told the community to ignore family planning and bear as many children as possible to raise the community’s numbers.

In his quest for higher education, Ntimama enrolled for a diploma course in Legal Studies at Oxford University, a course he studied through correspondence.

“Being an independent student, you have to be very disciplined. I stopped pursuing higher education when politics and family came in,” he was once quoted in a newspaper interview.

The late Ntimama once singled out the two American leaders as the people who influenced him the most; Martin Luther King for leading the civil rights movement, and Abraham Lincoln for emancipating blacks from slavery.

He also had great admiration for Mahatma Gandhi.

In his own account, Ntimama was a great lover of books. From his many travels abroad, over the years he built an impressive library on history, literature and biographies.

In later years, he donated his collection to Narok Library, which he termed as his heritage to his people.

His former colleagues eulogised him as an active and no-nonsense debater who went ahead to earn many awards in parliamentary debates.

Ntimama mentored a number of famous people from the Maa community, including Ambassador Julius Sunkuli, current Narok North MP Moitalel ole Kenta and Laisamis MP Joseph Lekuton.

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