By RAEL JELIMO
His was a tumultuous political career laden with one controversy after another, but Kiptum Choge was among the fiercest politicians who did not spare even his family in his battles.
Choge’s death last week after a long illness brought to an end the life of a politician who ruled with an iron fist and was not shy to speak out his mind.
His public life was one full of drama, including a hotly contested battle for the Aldai parliamentary seat in 2002 that pitted him against his son, the late Jimmy Choge and his brother, Sammy Choge.
Although it was thought to be a gimmick by the family to retain the seat, the elder Choge used his campaign meetings to lash out at his son and his brother for trying to unseat him. During one of his campaign meetings, he tore into his son saying: “How can one snatch his father’s wife? Where on earth has this happened?” he posed, referring to the seat Jimmy wanted to wrestle from him after serving three terms.
However, Jimmy carried the day, with his uncle and senior Choge’s brother, Sammy, coming in third.
He won the poll on a Narc ticket while his father had contested on a Kanu ticket while his uncle ran on a Ford People one.
Choge was born in 1932 in Kapsengere sub-location of Terik Location in Aldai, Nandi County.
He rose to become a chief in Terik, which served as a pacesetter to his future life career as a politician, where he ended up as an assistant minister in the Education ministry in former President Daniel arap Moi’s government.
He was known as a straight talking politician, not one to shy away from speaking his mind on touchy political issues even before the President.
During a political function at the Nandi Agricultural Showground in Kapsabet, Moi endorsed the now Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta as his preferred successor in the 2002 elections before the people of Nandi.
Choge, who was in attendance, is quoted to have trashed the retired president’s endorsement.
“Your retirement marks the end of Kanu,” said the late Choge.
Apart from shooting straight, Choge was family to President Moi. The former Head of State’s daughter Doris was married to Choge’s son, the late Ibrahim, who was a rally driver. This probably gave him courage to face off with the former President without fear of reprisal.
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His son Ibrahim’s death was, however, one of the lowest moments for the late politician after he was allegedly murdered in unclear circumstances.
His sixth born child died in a road accident on June 8, 1998 in an incident his father insisted was murder. He even blamed police for alleged cover up in the death.
Choge’s iron fist politics also saw him cross paths with the law after he was arrested and charged with the murder of a councillor.
He was incarcerated in a Kitale prison as he went through a full trial before being released after he was absolved of the murder.
During referendum campaigns in 2005, Choge also had a brush with the law after his driver drove into a hostile crowd opposed to the politician in an attempt to flee and seriously injured one person.
Those who knew him say Choge was a lone ranger who feared no one in a political duel.
Those he crossed paths with included veteran politician Ezekiel Barng’etuny, who in the 1979 General Election supported the election of Samuel Ng’eny to unseat Choge in the Aldai race.
It is said that Barng’etuny went to Kabarak to visit Moi, introducing Henry Kosgey, Samuel Ngeny and Stanley Metto who went ahead to clinch the Tinderet, Aldai and Mosop parliamentary seats respectively.
History will remember the famous slogan Kibunguok Somok (the three keys), the election slogan cooked by Barng’etuny.
Choge leaves behind 18 children, five of whom are now deceased, 141 grandchildren and six great grandchildren. He will be buried on Saturday next week at his Moi’s Bridge Pembeni Farm.