Commonly known as Farouk, his full names are Farouk Teigut Kibet. He has called the shots around the DP over the past four years, determining the fate of those seeking to get access to the Deputy President, William Ruto, at his Harambee House Annex office, in Karen and elsewhere.
The Deputy President’s personal aide, is a suave gentleman. He is a self-effacing individual at the DP’s numerous public forums, a silent observer and a stickler for detail. He keeps a watchful eye, taking in every detail for subsequent review. He notes who is who and who says what. He spots out fellow power brokers in the crowd for future engagement.
The Deputy President’s right hand man has recently hit newspaper headlines for allegedly receiving money from a suspect in the National Youth Service (NYS) Sh 791 million scandal. The powerful Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee toyed for a while with the thought of summoning him for interrogation on the NYS saga before dropping the idea altogether.
Farouk was also among a number of Kenyans who were mentioned by the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, for alleged involvement in the 2007 post elections violence. Bensouda claimed that Farouk stormed the Eldoret Police Station, at the height of the violence. She also accused him of tampering with ICC witnesses in the debacle that was the case against the DP at The Hague.
Those who know Farouk recall how he used to roam the streets of Eldoret Town in the early 1990s, engaging Kanu Youth wingers in animated discussions on how to boost the then ruling party’s fortunes in Uasin Gishu and his home area of Turbo Division.
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The high school that Farouk attended, if any, is not known. However, he was a regular contributor to the mailbox in The Standard and the now defunct Kenya Times newspapers. He was a great friend of Eldoret-based print journalists and correspondents.
His crisp letters always carried messages of support for politicians, like the then powerful Kanu branch chairmen, Mark Too, Ezekiel Barngetuny, Philemon Chelagat and at some point Reuben Chesire, among other politicians from the North Rift. He was especially in the good books of serving MPs at the time. The Deputy President had not yet burst onto the political scene.
Today, when the DP glances at Kibet’s russet face he sees the mark of honour, truth and loyalty. The political camaraderie between the two men is so unusual and so profound that friend and foe alike attest to the thought that only Mother Nature could ever separate them.
The camaraderie is unusual because Ruto is intellectually sophisticated — boasting of two university degrees and counting, while Kibet has obscure educational credentials, if the narratives in Eldoret are anything to go by.
The Deputy President’s reserved lead foot soldier has stuck with his boss through thick and thin. Together, they have seen it all and he is now reaping the benefits. The big irony of it all is that the relationship reportedly began with an insult.
Our journey to discover the man behind the mask began in Nairobi where, through the DP’s Spokesman David Mugonyi, he rebuffed our pleas for an interview. It took us to Eldoret, the theatre of his demagoguery and to his quaint hamlet in Kapkechui, Chepsaita, on the border of Uasin Gishu and Kakamega Counties.
Isaac Maiyo, a long-time ally of the DP, told The Standard on Sunday in Nandi, “In 1997 when the DP was coming into politics, he (Farouk) was against us. As a matter of fact, the DP didn’t like him because at some point – and in the rough of politics — he abused us. He could not come to terms with Ruto as a newcomer.”
With a glint in his bespectacled eyes, Maiyo takes a long reflective pause, as the mid-day sun pounds his balding head. He is reliving the circumstances that changed their fortunes from foes to friends and the ties that have bound them together ever since.
“As on-the-ground political activist, he didn’t care a thing and was shameless. We thought that to have him in the opposing camp would be risky. We talked to him and he crossed over to our side. He turned out to be a serious supporter of the DP and up to this moment, he has never turned his back on him,” Maiyo said.
His unwavering loyalty in the first five years of Ruto’s three terms as Eldoret North MP earned him a nomination to Wareng County Council as a councilor from 2003 to 1997. From there onwards, his story begins to change and people become more measured on what they say of him and before him.
“From the record, he served very well as a nominated councilor. He did nothing wrong, nothing wrong,” his former colleague at the County Council, Paul Kiprop said.
Loved and loathed in equal measure
In an interview interspersed with cautionary chuckles, Kiprop, like many others before him, begged to be relieved the burden of speaking further on Farouk and given the lighter duty of silence. He stuck on the straitjacket to the very end:
“He’s loyal, very loyal. Indeed you are supposed to be loyal to your boss. All those other impressions people have of him are all drawn from aspects of his loyalty.”
Kiprop’s caution is not misguided, for Farouk is loathed and loved in equal measure. Not even governors can afford to cross his path. For, in the words of one elected MP from the area, his paths and the DP’s are so intertwined that “you can never tell when it’s the DP you are dealing with and when it is Farouk.”
So dreaded is Farouk that his suggestions or opinions are law to area leaders. On the eve of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s tour of Nandi and Kericho counties on Thursday and Friday, he summoned leaders from the two counties, herded them in to a hotel in Eldoret town and led them in a single convoy to inspect the venues of the visit.
At the venues, he took absolute charge, directing where the dais should be erected and issuing other logistical directions and edicts. On the actual day of the launch of the various roads Nandi, Kibet was in his element.
At Kaptkatembu, and unlike the elected leadership of the area, he arrived in style, aboard a Kenya Pipeline Company helicopter, alongside Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter, clad in a free-flowing shirt, khaki trousers and a jungle green military-like cap.
Towering, bow-legged, intermittently on the phone and barely smiling, he paced around oozing raw power, checking one thing or the other. He stood on the main road, surrounded by uniformed men, arms akimbo and seemingly a man at ease.
“Essentially, he is a field person who is trusted to a great deal by the DP. He didn’t go far in school, but he compensates for that with his resolute loyalty. Given his obscure credentials, he has nothing to lose and that’s probably why he can afford to be rough on people,” Kipkorir Menjo, an activist in Eldoret town, says of him.
Menjo has known Farouk since his days as a Kanu youth leader in Turbo and when he ran against Ruto on a Ford Kenya ticket in 1997. He admits that Kibet was rough on him occasionally. To him, Farouk is what former nominated MP Mark Too was to former President Daniel arap Moi.
“In ordinary circumstances you could write them off and they would be nothing. But they have their own qualities which their masters find to be of great help in politics,” Menjo adds. To a former journalist who was based in Eldoret at the time Farouk was “a nobody,” the mark of his quality is courage. He describes him as a “reserved guy, good, but sly and naturally sharp.”
“We used to sit with him for days on end at a hotel called Asis in Eldoret Town, taking tea and eating mandazi. Right now, I cannot access him,” the former journalists says.
He says that from the time Farouk led demonstrators to storm the Eldoret Police Station over election fiasco of 2007, the relationship between him and Ruto has blossomed. He was arrested and released over the poll chaos that rocked Eldoret town.
“After that unusual act of courage, Ruto began to take him much more seriously and has since kept him very close. You can say he earned his place by the sweat of his brow and by demonstrating his mettle.”
We hit the road through Turbo, Mwamba and Kipkaren trading centres, headed to Farouk’s Chepsaita home on the hills, along the Uasin Gishu–Kakamega border, only to encounter a deafening silence. The road to his village home is made of rough-hewn patches of worn out tarmac.
The village enigma
Tucked at the base of surrounding hills, Farouk’s modest farmhouse stands forlorn in the midst of semi-permanent houses of mixed Luhyia and Kalenjin settlements. Opposite his house is his father’s redbrick house with a huge heard of cattle resting under tree shades in the compound.
Inside Farouk’s home, mean looking young men lazed in the shade, probably after devouring a heavy lunch. Inside the compound were two old mud-walled houses on one side, one possibly Farouk’s abode in his days as a youth and a modern haystack structure on the other.
When the young men saw our car aimlessly making rounds, one of them rose up and pulled over a semi-permanent barbed wire fence to close the main entrance.
“I don’t know much about him. We came here a few years ago and over that period, he often comes home in a chopper, lands at his father’s compound and crosses over. He does not spend much time here, whenever he comes,” Mariah Silvanus, a neighbour explains as she cuts away pumpkin leaves for lunch.
On the other side of Farouk’s fenced farm, cows roam about, grazing. On the other side, neighbours said, his father grows maize, jointly with the rest of family members.
Nobody in the village wanted to be identified by name, or to talk about him. Some said he excelled in football in his earlier years. Others had no idea where he went to school. Some said he went to Chepkemel Primary School, within the area, but they were not sure.
Others testified to his generosity in building churches through fundraisers. Others simply walked away from our inquiries whenever we broached the subject.
“No comment!” Stephen Kewa, a political aspirant, curtly told us in Kapkatembu when we introduced ourselves. We prodded him further to give us the positive values he ascribed to Farouk from his interactions, but he stuck to his guns: “No comment.”
Later, we saw him hobnobbing with Farouk — picking discussions — but the man was too busy to sustain them.
The modesty that we saw in his village was misleading. Back in Eldoret town, we were shown two modern town houses that belong to Farouk.
The first one is located in Upper Elgon View, a kilometre off the main Eldoret–Nakuru Road at Annex Area. It is right behind Moi University’s School of Law, in an wealthy neighbourhood, which is more or less an extension of the affluent Elgon View.
The Mti Moja-Kiboi Road leading to this house was recently graveled all the way to his imposing gate and is part of loop roads that the Kenya Urban Roads Authority is tarmacking in Eldoret Town. Dittman Construction Company is already on site.
“He does not allow people to loiter around this area. You will most likely find a caretaker and he will be very hard on you,” a man at the Miti Moja bodaboda shed warned us.
The house stands out from other houses in the area, like a fortress — an intimidating gate, brick-walled all round and with an electric fence to boot. The mud-house next to his house forms an enduring contrast between the promise of wealth and the cruelty of paucity. Only the protruding red-roof and the shooting palm trees give you a vague testimony of the compound. Less than two kilometres away in Eldoret town, and behind Eldoret Sports Club, is another magnificent house that belongs to Farouk — bigger, better but same red-roof like the first two.
“Occasionally he lands here in a chopper,” a neighbour told us and walked away. Behind the house are tall trees which form a natural sunshade over his compound as the sun goes to the West. Not so far away is an important neighbour who hardly ever visits — the President of The Republic of Kenya. The Eldoret State Lodge is a walking distance behind Farouk’s home.
In hushed tones, however, many of the people we spoke to complained that he was rude to them, he over-protected the DP, listened only to himself and had a shady educational back ground. Others claimed that the name Farouk Kibet was a red herring, that his real name is Benjamin Kipkazi.
All the contradictions and mysteries in his life notwithstanding, all agree that Farouk has done pretty well for himself in the last few years. They also agree that to remain a constant in a big man’s life requires special skills which, though scorned by many, are an asset for the few who master them, like Farouk.