Raising a politician: A chat with Lineth Chepkorir's parents

Ms Linet Chepkorir "Toto", the 24 year old United Democratic Alliance (UDA) flag bearer for the Bomet county Woman Representative position in the August 9 general election, speaking on April, 24, 2022 during her thanksgiving at Chemamul primary school playgrounds. 

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

Richard and Betty Langat were not really surprised when their daughter, Lineth Chepkorir, announced that she would vie for the Bomet Woman Representative position in the August 9 General Election.

You see, their daughter has always been a go-getter, never one to stay in the background, and ever since they can recall, she never shied away from speaking her mind.

“She has always been an obedient and disciplined child, and exhibited leadership qualities from a young age,” says her father, Mr Langat.

Her star started shinning when she joined high school, going on to be appointed students’ President at Siwot Secondary School, located a few kilometres from their home, and when she joined Chuka University, where she graduated in April 2021 with a degree in Business Administration Management, she was appointed hostel captain. But way before that, she was a youth leader at the area African Gospel Church where the family worships.

This is not all, Lineth is also the chairperson of a group called the United Youth Group, which she co-founded with peers in her home village when she was just in Form One. The group’s agenda is to motivate its’ members and others in their education pursuits, besides championing environmental conservation.

With such a track record, it is no wonder that her parents were not taken aback when their daughter, the third born in a family of five children, told them that she had decided to challenge seasoned politicians in Bomet County for the Women Rep seat. Her mother was apprehensive, and thought that she should instead focus on looking for employment like her peers and pursue a professional career, one as far away from politics as possible.

She even enlisted the help of other relatives to convince her daughter to reconsider, but Lineth had made a decision, and there was no changing her mind. Her mother, an Early Childhood Development Education teacher currently teaching at Raiya Primary School in the outskirts of bomet town, had witnessed her daughter’s stubborn nature over the years and knew when to step back. Reluctantly, she gave in and decided to support her dream.

The family lives an ordinary life, and like most homes here at Chemamul Village, Merigi Ward, Bomet East Constituency, the compound is not fenced off.

Lineth's mother Betty, is an Early Childhood Development teacher, while her father, Richard, is a trader and farmer. 

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

Standing on a clearing is white tent, donated by a well-wisher, which is used for meetings with supporters who have been streaming into the home since Lineth won the UDA party ticket to vie for the Bomet County Women Rep seat.

Today it is empty, Lineth having travelled for a meeting in Nairobi. We are ushered into the home by her parents, who have gotten used to receiving unexpected visitors in the last five months.

In the compound are three semi-permanent structures: the main house, which is mud-walled with an iron roof, the kitchen, which is also the children’s bedroom, and a store.

A makeshift kitchen has been added to cater for the big number of guests that walk in and out of the home all day long, on most days, and who have to be served tea. Several chickens dart back and forth foraging for food as the interview gets underway. Lineth’s parents take a sit on a bench placed beneath a tree outside the main house.

A dog lying under a small granary occasionally shakes its head to get rid of flies interrupting its siesta.

The couple’s eldest child, Mr Collins Yegon, a university graduate just like his younger sister, says that he sometimes gets confused when visitors or people that he comes across ask him how “Mheshimiwa” is doing – he is yet to get used to his younger sibling being referred to in any other name other than Toto, her nickname since childhood.

“We expect her life to adjust for the better, but we pray that the trappings that come with the position will not change her attitude towards the society she is keen to serve,” says Yegon.

He sits through the interview with his parents, occasionally interrupting them to remind them something they have left out regarding his sister, who is known as ‘Toto’, (small child) to those who have known her since childhood.

Her mother explains that the nickname was given to her by a neighbour who kept forgetting her name, eventually giving up and settling on Toto. It was a nickname that became her, said two of Lineth’s teachers in primary school, Ms Nancy Korir and Mr Micah Koskei in an earlier interview, since she was small-bodied.

Lineth may still be known as ‘Toto’ to those who have known her for years, but she is no longer a child, she is one of their own, the one that they hope will win the seat she is vying for.

Hundreds of residents from the county’s five constituencies – Bomet East, Bomet Central, Konoin, Sotik and Chepalungu - have been thronging this home since January this year to offer their support or to simplly get a glimpse of the youthful politician.

 Lineth is handed a clearance certificate by the Mr Daniel Lenarum, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) county coordinator on June, 3, 2022. Lineth is the youngest nominee for the position in the country. 

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

“Her interest in politics started more or less like a joke, but it appears she has a bright future though she still has a hurdle to face in the August 9 General Election,” says her father, Mr Langat.

The farmer and trader is a man of few words, but lights up every time he talks about his family, saying that over the years they have enjoyed a quiet life, but the attention they have been subjected to the last few months has changed this.

Proud of his daughter’s accomplishments so far, he observes that she was naive when she declared her interest a year ago, but has quickly learnt the ropes and is learning new lessons day by day.

“We want the best for her in all her endeavors and pray that she keeps to the path and standards we have raised her,” he says.

His wife is more forthright.

"She is more mature now, far from the naïve-looking girl that she was when she graduated, she articulates her issues better, thanks to interacting with elderly people and professionals of all cadres,” she states, adding that they are glad for the support their daughter has received so far.

Inch by inch, she has earned the support and respect from quite a number of voters who have rallied behind her for the resolve and determination she exhibited by daring to challenge seasoned politicians with deep pockets despite her youthfulness.

Kenyans beyond Bomet County only got to know about her after she posted a photo on social media taken at Deputy President William Ruto’s residence in Karen where he had hosted aspirants for various elective positions in the Rift Valley region.

Before this, she had been denied entry to the meeting by police manning the gate, who thought she had accompanied her mother, even asking her to turn back and wait for her at the parking lot.

She was eventually let in after she produced an electronic ticket proving that she was who she said she was, and even then, she was subjected to a verification process to prove she was not an intruder.

That picture would completely change her life, transforming her from an unknown young woman aspirant to one of the most talked about people in Kenya for a period, having trended on social media.

“I took the photo in the hope that one day, I would show my children that I was invited to, and attended a meeting at the Deputy President’s residence. I did not know it would turn out the way it has,” she said in an earlier interview.

Her parents say that they were not prepared for the local and national attention they have been subjected to as a result of their daughter's rising profile over a very short period, but they have adjusted to it, embracing their celebrity status in their locality whole-heartedly.

Still the same

Lineth still lives with her parents, and even after securing the unlikely ticket, she has not stopped performing the domestic chores she did before the limelight came calling. She still washes clothes in the local river a short distance away from the homestead, for instance.

Her parents say that she still seeks guidance and permission from them and shares her schedule with them.

They have had to adjust to her occasionally getting home late, though, when she has meetings to attend, and also make room for impromptu meetings with her supporters from across the county.

“She is still the same child we brought up, and we do not expect much to change in her character as she has a strong Christian background and is generally a disciplined person,” Mrs Langat stresses, adding,

“It is important for parents to educate their children, instill a high sense of discipline, guide them through the challenges of life, but allow them to pursue their dream careers.

Lineth and her siblings would walk to and fro Kapsimbiri Primary School, an average of 1.5 kilometres from their home, and would therefore manage to return home for lunch and back to school for late afternoon classes.

Due to the family’s humble background, Lineth has been depending on financial and material support from well-wishers to carry out her campaign.

Initially, she travelled by foot or a motorcycle to reach the various destinations in her campaign trail, but she now uses a vehicle extended to her by a well-wisher.

“It is by the grace of God that our daughter has achieved so much in life within a short period, and whatever the outcome, we pray that she will become a role model to other young people in the society,” offers Mrs Langat.

Kenya has no shortage of youthful politicians who have been relegated to the political back bench or to oblivion after a short stint in power following failure to match voter’s expectations.

Commenting on this, Lineth says that should she win come the elections, one of the foremost things she will do is push for enactment of laws that will require the government to roll out free sanitary towels to girls.

“Rather than the current program where sanitary towels are sparingly supplied to primary school children by the Ministry of Education, there should be a paradigm shift in policies to enable the government provide enough sanitary towels to girls in primary and secondary schools, and even to those not in learning institutions,” she said.

She also wants to use her position, if elected in the August poll, to do away with the culture of youth and women being dependent on handouts and facilitate their training through cooperative societies to access grants and loans so as to start income generating projects.

“I will ensure that beneficiaries of national government funds are trained on financial management before getting the grants to curb wastage and loss. A business should make you profit and improve the general wellbeing of your families,” says Lineth, adding,

“The people of Bomet have high expectations of me. I appeal to the voters to rally behind me as I am up against over six other more seasoned, experienced and financially endowed candidates,” she appeals.

She says that it would be encouraging if youths in the country came out in large numbers to seek elective positions at the civic, constituency, senate and county levels.

“I am appealing to girls to focus on their education, get a middle level college and university education before plunging into politics. This would enable them to contribute to policy formulation to create employment opportunities in the country and improve the economy so that youths are not dependent on white collar jobs,” she says.

It is every parent's dream that their child gets an education, pursues a career and becomes successful at it, and this dream is no different from that her parents have for her.