Farouk Kibet.

Deputy President William Ruto’s personal assistant Farouk Kibet. He has a baby face – perhaps because of his monolid eyes.

| File | Nation Media Group

Farouk Kibet and the making of a ‘Total Man’ in Ruto’s State House

Farouk Kibet has a baby face – perhaps because of his monolid eyes. But looks, normally, can be deceiving. Farouk, as he is well known, exhibits energy. He exhibits power. And if William Ruto wins the presidency, this will be the man to watch and watch-out.

The political history of Kenya is littered with Farouk-types who mushroom and become powerful insiders within the presidency and snowball to what the late Nicholas Biwott, Moi’s former personal assistant, would call ‘Total Man’.

Kenyans still recall Joshua Kulei – the man who rose from a prison warden into a billionaire thanks to his service as President Moi’s personal assistant. So powerful was Mr Kulei that it became hard to distinguish him, and his assets, from his master. He now heads the multibillion empire known as the Sovereign Group.

They also recall the once powerful Alfred Getonga, Kibaki’s personal assistant, who would later feature in John Githongo’s report on the multibillion-shilling Anglo Leasing affair.

Others like JM Kariuki, Jomo Kenyatta’s former private secretary, got their political wings in the same shadows, grew rich and became a headache to the status quo. But neither Getonga nor Kariuki would come close to Kulei’s fortunes.

Obscure name

At the moment, Farouk seems to be an obscure name; he doesn’t feature in TV talk shows and hardly speaks in political rallies. But he has been part of the Ruto political ecology and a significant insider in the backroom where jostling for power and influence is both served as breakfast and dinner. Though there are few traces of him in the public space to help us configure his typology, Farouk has of late been exposed to regional politics, too, and was in a delegation that went to meet Uganda’s President Museveni – though the DP was not there. Kenyans might recall how President Moi used to send Mark Too to Mozambique and DR Congo for political escapades which is well captured in Lonrho tycoon Tiny Rowland’s biographies.

On October 5, 2017, Farouk was part of a delegation that flew to Yoweri Museveni’s State Lodge Kapchorwa, near Mt Elgon, for a meeting that included Narok Governor Samuel Tunai, Endebbes MP Henry Pukose, Trans Nzoia Senator Henry ole Ndiema and Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago.

Why Museveni was meeting county leaders was never clear and Farouk’s presence – given that he holds no elected position – would only signal to the kind of power he holds. Both Pukose and ole Ndiema had in 2016 accompanied Dr Ruto to Uganda where he campaigned for Museveni in the Sebei region inhabited by Kalenjin speakers. The Daily Monitor reported that the delegation sought to do some investment in hospitality industry in Sebei region.

Farouk’s fortunes – at this moment – are tied to those of Dr Ruto and as Deputy President’s gatekeeper and as Mr Everywhere, the former Wareng councillor has become the most important person in DP’s first shot at the presidency. One notable thing is that these days he eschews much publicity – unlike the days when he was Turbo Kanu youth winger in Eldoret where, at the slightest provocation, he would call a press conference or organise a public protest — some say with the blessings of Dr Ruto.

Loved protest marches

As a youth winger, Farouk loved these protest marches, whether on maize prices or politics, and he was a common figure in Eldoret town and in the newspaper bureaus as he tried his hand in local politics – more as a power broker.

Previously, he looked more comfortable in the shadows but as the election campaigns gain momentum, he is often seen controlling speakers and operations. But still, Mr Everywhere remains unknown – only mentioned in undertones, for if you step on him, you step on the boss.

At the DP’s Karen residence, where stakes are raised or withdrawn, Farouk hovers like Mark Meadows during Donald Trump’s campaign in the US as the symbol of trust.

It is a story that starts in Uasin Gishu where he had identified himself with the Ruto team, as the latter tried his hand in competitive politics in 1997 after his sojourn at the Youth for Kanu 92 where he was the executive director.

But Ruto, as a young hothead, had found the space within Kanu occupied by titans and joined hands with former YK92 adherents to form United Democratic Movement (UDM) whose chairman was Fred Amayo, with Cyrus Jirongo and Kipruto arap Kirwa as the bigwigs. Others in the mix included Mathioya MP Maina Njakwe. But on January 16, 1999, Moi had dared the registrar of societies to register UDM. Then he changed his mind in March.

It was during this period that Farouk emerged as a youth leader and called a press conference backing UDM and arguing that the days when people were herded within Kanu were gone. He also said that the residents of Eldoret had agreed to support UDM as the Moi succession started to take shape. But Moi managed to clip the UDM wings and brought Jirongo closer to power that saw him appointed a Cabinet minister.

Youth leader

When UDM was registered, Farouk emerged in January 1999, as a youth leader, and called a press conference in Eldoret saying they had agreed to support the party. He said that days when people were stuck to Kanu blindly were long gone. UDM had been registered by Kipruto arap Kirwa, Cyrus Jirongo and William Ruto in their bid to have the Kanu young Turks find space in the Moi succession. Farouk was one of the vocal youth leaders in the Rift Valley criticising politicians who were pushing for President Moi to run again in 2002 against the Constitution.

While UDM was scattered by President Moi by appointing its leaders into positions of power, it would later emerge in the Rift Valley as a possible Ruto vehicle to presidency but this was thwarted, once again, and led to registration of United Republican Party in January 2012 with the slogan, ‘Sema na Utende’.

Back to the records, we see Farouk featuring in the politics around the controversial East African Tanning and Extract Company land which is in Ruto’s Uasin Gishu backyard and which was owned by Lonrho East Africa. In early 2000, Farouk, together with a group of 60 youth, claimed that some politicians were plotting to incite the youth to evict outsiders who had bought EATEC land. Whether this meant to scare or was a genuine concern is not clear but his press conference was covered.

It was after 2002, and with the assistance of Dr Ruto, that Farouk was appointed as a nominated councillor for Wareng. At a time when Mwai Kibaki had won the presidential race much to the chagrin of Kanu insiders, Eldoret became the base of bitterness. Thus, when President Kibaki was to pay his first visit to Eldoret in March 2004 to open the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) Show, it was Farouk who applied for a permit to stage a demonstration within Eldoret to coincide with the President’s visit. While this was denied, he had told the police that he had applied for the permit on behalf of Kanu MPs William Ruto, David Koros, Joseph Lagat, David Sudi, Charles Keter and Nick Salat.

According to Farouk, the demonstrators wanted to complain about the fertiliser prices and the stringent conditions that had been imposed by Transport and Communications minister John Michuki on Eldoret International Airport. Michuki had not only closed down the airport but ordered all cargo flights diverted to Nairobi after Eldoret was identified as a conduit for the smuggling of arms and narcotic drugs and widespread tax evasion for goods flown in from Dubai and other Middle East free ports.

Though Farouk did not succeed in his anti-Kibaki demo and on the morning of March 3, 2004 Mwai Kibaki made an entry into Eldoret town, he had a year earlier raised concern with the appointment of Moody Awori as vice president, arguing that he was too old for the job – a signal on the internal thinking within Kanu, then led by Uhuru Kenyatta. But still Farouk would later stage another anti-Kibaki demonstration in Eldoret, protesting Narc government’s move to have President Moi record a statement with the police on corruption allegations. This was after Constitutional Affairs minister Kiraitu Murungi had given Moi conditions that included his retirement from politics. Kiraitu had told Moi, in a widely quoted comment, that Moi should “go home to herd his goats and watch on TV how a government is run.” During Farouk’s protest march, he complained that the Narc government was persecuting the Kalenjin community and that numerous top brass Kalenjin civil servants had been replaced.

“We want Moi to be accorded respect the way he did to the Kenyatta family on assuming power in 1978,” Farouk was quoted saying.

 He had also complained that the anticipated Truth and Reconciliation Commission – which was being proposed by Prof Makau Mutua’s task force on national reconciliation - would only open wounds of the 1991 and the 1997 land clashes in the Rift Valley and expressed fears that the commission would be partisan and biased.

King of picketing

While Farouk had emerged as the king of picketing within Eldoret and as a grassroots organiser for William Ruto, he would also find himself in hot waters like his boss. For instance, in September 2013, his name appeared in the bundle of documents presented by the International Criminal Court prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, as among the people who were recruited by Dr Ruto as part of the political wing of his network deemed to have organised the post-election violence of 2007 and 2008.

According to the ICC prosecutor, others within that network included former ministers Franklin Bett, Henry Kosgey, Mt Elgon MP Fred Kapondi, businessman Jackson Kibor and Ruto’s Constituency Development Fund chairman Isaac Maiyo. While Ruto’s then lawyer, Karim Khan, dismissed testimony that Farouk attended a meeting and paid some youths to participate in violence as “fictitious”, it will be interesting to see whether Farouk’s name will feature as the case against Paul Gicheru starts on Tuesday at the ICC on the corruption of witnesses.

Scandals

While Farouk’s name has been dragged into scandals, he has managed to swim out. For instance, in 2016, when the Sh1.6 billion National Youth Service scandal broke, Farouk was one of the DP allies who were summoned by the Public Accounts Committee after he was named by former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru as among the close associates of Ben Gethi, who was later charged together with Josephine Kabura. Ms Waiguru, now Kirinyaga governor, had tabled before the PAC a chart of telephone calls to show that Farouk had spoken to Ben Gethi 262 times. But in its final report, the PAC said that the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), then under Ndegwa Muhoro, had failed to confirm the authenticity of Waiguru’s chart. Farouk had in his submission to PAC said that he had borrowed Sh1.5 million from the NYS suspect Ben Gethi but the documents indicated that the money was deposited in Farouk’s account by the other suspect Josephine Kabura. The money, according to Farouk, was to assist a patient going to India.

Whichever way the Ruto’s quest for power goes, there will always be this man in the backroom whom Kenyans should keep an eye on: Farouk Kibet. It is the nature of politics.


[email protected] @johnkamau1

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