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{UAH} SO, MAN WAS DANGEROUS, UH...! Nicholas Biwott was Kenya’s Al Capone

Nicholas Biwott was Kenya's Al Capone

Biwott amassed his fabled fortunes when Kenyans endured an era of painful economic destruction

The praise being heaped on the late Nicholas Biwott is a perfect example of what former cantankerous British diplomat, Edward Clay, once called Kenya's strange tendency to indulge in selective amnesia.

It is still strange that the bulk of the condolences and remarks on his life have avoided or missed one conspicuous aspect: That the late Cabinet minister was a legendary master of insidious state capture, with disastrous results for Kenya's social-economic fortunes.

Like the Al Capone infamy of 1930s America, where his criminal enterprise thrived when the rest of the nation languished in painful, economic recession, Biwott too amassed his fabled fortunes when Kenyans endured an era of painful economic destruction.

A ravenously predatory generation of politicians and state technocrats had invented and perfected the art of preying on state resources, wrecking vital sectors, and gorging themselves with national resources.


The modus operandi was perversion of the due process, suppression of free speech, freedom of association and political expression, bastardisation of other arms of government like the Judiciary, flooding the civil service with cronies and relatives with no other aim, but infesting the state payslip with wage earners.

Economic production and service delivery ranked very lowly in their conscious, and their idea of duty will remain a gold mine case study for historians and social scientists, on how public servants can turn predators and economic cannibals against their own nation.

L-R: The late Biwott's widows Kalista Lessie,Hannie Biwott and Professor Margaret Kamar

In his celebrated inaugural speech when he assumed office after the fall of Kanu following the 2002 General Election, retired President Mwai Kibaki described the Biwott era government's ruin of national fortunes thus: "I am inheriting a country that has been ravaged by years of misrule and ineptitude...."

Those years of misrule and ineptitude coincided with Biwott's rise in political power in the 1980s and 1990s when he amassed his wealth.

A testament to this is that his name and his companies featured prominently during the hydra-headed Goldenberg Commission of Inquiry, the many convoluted suits and counter suits between Central Bank of Kenya and many collapsed banks in which he had interests in at the time they went down with public funds.

Biwott's rise in wealth and political power also coincided with a period in Kenya's contemporary history when a peculiar generation of newly minted millionaires emerged without much history of hard work, investment, inventions or business acumen of any known description besides suckling from the udders of government.

Biwott died a tainted man, thanks to leaked diplomatic cables from Nairobi to Washington and which led to him being blacklisted from travelling to the USA, owing to his associations with mega corruption.

It is important to contextualise who a nation's heroes and heroines are for posterity and quarters praising Biwott's service to the nation may need to pause and reflect on the legacy he has bequeathed Kenya's future generations.


Gwokto La'Kitgum
"Even a small dog can piss on a tall building" Jim Hightower

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