A rare character of the late Kipyator Nicholas Kiprono Biwott was on display as family, confidantes, and business associates mourned the former powerful Cabinet minister.
Away from the secretive and highly guarded personality that was known of Biwott, whose name was mentioned in the 1990s' unresolved murder of his former Cabinet colleague Robert Ouko, those close to him disclosed a soft side of the man, away from the clench-fisted persona, revealing him as a statesman, patriot and a philanthropist.
And for the first time, Biwott’s family, one of his otherwise closely guarded life, was revealed to the public, with his wife Hannie Biwott, leading his children and grandchildren in mourning the man, whose attributes in improving the livelihood of the Kenyans he interacted with, led to him being nicknamed “Maendeleo (Development) or Karnet (Kalenjin for steel hardened)”.
Though details of his family were not contained in the eulogy delivered by his most publicly visible child, former Investment Secretary in the Treasury, Esther Koimett, Kenyans had the rare opportunity of seeing some of his children and grandchildren as they delivered their personal tributes.
Hannie, who was the only widow publicly recognised at the funeral service held at AIC Milimani Church, termed Biwott as a noble and a humble man who helped many but did not wish to be recognised for it.
“I am privileged to have been his wife of 52 years and the mother, grandmother and great-grandmother of his family. I am here to tell you that he was a noble man, very proud to tell you that he was my husband,” she told the mourners, who included former Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete and Opposition leader Raila Odinga.
And as if to dispel the “bad-man character” associated with his husband’s name that made him loathed and feared even by his peers while in government, Hannie talked of Biwott as a good man.
“I am here to tell you how good a man my husband was. Kenyans will certainly remember him and I hope they appreciate him,” she said.
“Never would Nicholas pride himself on his good deeds, seek to elevate himself through connections, try to curry favour through flattery or, putting it bluntly, throw names. Till the end, he remained a humble man, never seeking recognition for his generosity,” she said.
She also talked of Biwott’s kindness, an attribute that many who spoke remembered him for, especially in helping the less privileged access education.
Christina Pratt, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s sister who chairs the Board of Trustee’s for the National Funds for the Disabled, revealed the philanthropic side of Biwott, telling mourners that the former Cabinet minister was a dedicated trustee for 37 years.
Biwott’s children, led by Esther, hailed their father’s contribution in their education and life principles, saying he had imparted in them values that helped them cope with difficult situations in their lives.
“You simplified complex issues and found solutions where none seemed to exist, the way you stayed above negativity and pettiness and always maintained your objectivity... your ability to be strong and cool-headed in the face of adversity... I will forever be grateful for your example,” Ms Koimett said of her father.
Kikwete, whose appearance at the funeral service appeared to have caught the organisers unawares, sending them to make hasty arrangements for his seat, termed Biwott as a close friend with whom he had worked closely both as Energy minister and when they held the East Africa Community dockets for their respective countries.
“East Africa has lost one of its most committed persons, especially towards the formation of the East Africa Community,” said Kikwete, who hailed Biwott’s contribution towards the coming up of the East Africa Roads Network, which saw the funding and construction of key infrastructure projects connecting member States.
Former Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura recounted how Biwott went out of his way to give them his private plane to go around the country spearheading the work of the EAC for free.
Former Speaker of the National Assembly Francis ole Kaparo, who said he knew Biwott well as his Speaker for 15 years, captured the life of the former powerful minister in President Daniel arap Moi’s administration, telling mourners that the man wanted very little talked about him.
Others who had the chance to eulogise Biwott included former State House comptroller Abraham Kiptanui, who termed Biwott as intelligent and thoughtful.
Cabinet secretaries Amina Mohammed (Foreign Affairs), Henry Rotich (Treasury) and Charles Keter (Energy) also attended the funeral service.
Biwott will be buried tomorrow in his Elgeyo Marakwet home.