John Serut takes with him part of Mt Elgon history

Former MP John Serut. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

When former Mt Elgon MP John Bomet Serut’s casket is lowered into the grave today in Kimobo, it will go down with part of the history of the area.

Serut died mid last month at the Nairobi Hospital where he had been undergoing treatment for a rare form of cancer known as multiple myeloma, which affects the plasma cells in the bone marrow. He was 67.

Prior to the hotly contested 2007 elections, Serut lived like a fugitive after telling journalists that the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF), which killed over 600 people in Mt Elgon and maimed many others, was after his life.

He defeated current MP Fred Kapondi who had just been released from custody and handed the ODM ticket, while Serut who had been denied the ticket ran as an independent.

He was a target of the infamous SLDF, the militia group that roamed villages between 2005 and 2008, killing and displacing many people from their farms.

The group also shot and killed members of Serut’s family in night attacks around Namorio, Kimobo and Kapkateny areas of Bungoma County.

Serut and Kapondi were later adversely mentioned in the Mt Elgon violence between 2006 and 2008 by witnesses during an inquiry.

Both politicians were, however, never convicted of any wrongdoings, although Kapondi was detained for many months in Bungoma where he was facing incitement charges before he was released in 2007.

A good debater in Parliament, Serut was also known for his hot temper. At one time, he attacked his predecessor Joe Kimukung at the lobby in Parliament, accusing him of attacking him in the media.

Kimukung was saved by the then Kanu Organising Secretary Nick Salat, who at the time was the MP for Bomet.

“I was saddened to learn of his death. He stood firm for the plight of the people of Mt Elgon and will be remembered for some of the remarkable projects he initiated. I pray to God to grant the family and the people of Mt Elgon strength to bear the loss,” Kimkung told The Saturday Standard.

Serut was first elected to Parliament in 2002 on a Kanu ticket after defeating Kimukung in an easy victory and went ahead to endear himself to the electorate as a grassroots leader as opposed to his predecessors Daniel arap Moss, the first Mt Elgon MP and his successor Wilberforce Kisiero.

In 2003, he was accused by a woman who claimed he had attempted to rape her at his Continental House offices, an accusation that was repeated by the then Ford Kenya MP for Budalang’i Rapahel Wanjala.

Speaker Francis ole Kaparo, however, used House Standing Orders and other parliamentary processes to resolve the issue that had become newsworthy and of much public interest.

At the time, Serut chose to operate from Kimobo village in Kapsokwony Division where he had a home, unlike his predecessor who lived in Trans Nzoia and operated from Kitale town.

Trouble for the MP began when he lobbied the government to allocate land to squatters in the controversial settlement scheme, which later created the land conflict and the birth of the brutal SLDF militia.

He pointed fingers at a local politician, who later joined the opposition as the person who was funding the militia, a smear campaign he claimed targeted his of removal from Parliament.

The SLDF group was at the time led by self-styled commander Wycliffe Matakwei.