What you need to know:
- His leadership can be likened to that of the former powerful minister and prominent Moi-era Pokot politician Francis Lotodo, who could not be deterred from defending his people, no matter how sensitive the matter was.
Tiaty MP William Kamket, the controversial Kanu MP charged last week with incitement to violence, is not new to controversy and accusations linking him to perennial insecurity in the North Rift.
The first-term lawmaker was arrested two weeks ago by police and detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) at his home in Baringo.
He was taken to Nakuru for interrogation in connection with unrest in volatile Laikipia in which eight people have been killed in the past one month and thousands of others displaced from their homes.
Mr Kamket was later charged in a Nakuru court with uttering words aimed at inciting hatred among communities in Ol Moran, Laikipia. He spent two days in custody at the Kaptembwo Police Station.
The court heard that during a meeting held on July 16 in Amaya in his constituency, the MP made utterances aimed at inciting hatred between communities in Ol Moran.
Police claimed the attacks in the area were planned and orchestrated by several masterminds including Mr Kamket.
He is being investigated for murder, robbery with violence, stock theft, malicious damage to property and incitement.
He was released on Sh500,000 bail.
But Nakuru Senior Principal Magistrate Lilian Arika issued strict conditions for the MP. He was barred from visiting Ol Moran and Amaya in Tiaty and must remain at his home in Nakuru. He was also ordered not to make public utterances.
Former Laikipia North MP Mathew Lempurkel was also arrested over the same claims.
Just like ex-MP Lotodo
But for Mr Kamket, his leadership can be likened to that of the former powerful minister and prominent Moi-era Pokot politician Francis Lotodo, who could not be deterred from defending his people, no matter how sensitive the matter was.
At one point, the Pokot West ex-MP was sacked as an assistant minister, arrested and imprisoned for criticising Moi about development in the region.
In 1981, he was accused of buying arms for the Pokot and was implicated in cattle rusting and incitement. Reports indicated that he once urged his community to drop arrows and spears and adopt guns so as to defend themselves more effectively from their aggressive neighbours.
Mr Lotodo, who died in 2000, was accused that in the run-up to the 1997 elections, he asked all non-Kalenjins to leave the Rift Valley.
Two years later, he also asked all Marakwet to pack their belongings and leave West Pokot, urging young people in his community to ensure the instruction was implemented.
Two decades later, Mr Kamket seems to be following in the footsteps of Mr Lotodo, saying his community has been marginalised by successive governments since independence.
After being released from police custody on Monday, he officiated at the admission of pioneer students at the Chemolingot campus of Kenya Medical Training College in Tiaty. He insisted that he would not be distracted from transforming his community.
He claimed that the Pokot community had lagged in development since before independence, lamenting that the constituency, formerly East Pokot, was a closed district for many years.
His constituency, he said, is still grappling with poor roads, inadequate health facilities and schools, and perennial water scarcity.
“As a member of Parliament from Tiaty, I will not be distracted in the path I have chosen to transform this society. I am focused as a leader from this society that is downtrodden and left behind by successive governments, leading us to become the savage society. We will remain firm, no matter what,” he said this week.
The Kanu legislator insisted that professionals from his community will not shy from reversing the trends and mistakes made by the government.
“As the sons of this community who have benefited from education and are now in positions of leadership, influence and policy making, we will do our job,” the MP said.
“There is no leader who gets involved in criminality and some people only misunderstand us. What we are appealing for from them is a fair process. If they think a particular leader from Tiaty, whether the MP or an MCA (member of county assembly), has an issue, let us follow the due process of the law and we will prove beyond reasonable doubt that we are innocent.”
Mr Kamket has been linked to attacks in the banditry-prone counties of the North Rift region since 2014, barely a year into office as Speaker of the Baringo County Assembly.
Most of Mr Kamket’s tenure as Speaker was marred by controversy, and he was in and out of court over charges of incitement to violence.
For instance, in June 2014, an MCA issued a notice of motion to remove him from office over alleged incitement.
In the notice, Ilchamus ward MCA Wesley Lekakimon accused Mr Kamket of making public utterances that he said fuelled conflict between the Pokot and other communities in Baringo.
He cited remarks Mr Kamket made at the launch of a Sh150 million initiative in Eldama-Ravine where the KCB Foundation had partnered with the county government to help livestock farmers improve their breeds and boost food security.
At the meeting, Mr Kamket allegedly said: “We don’t steal; we are restocking what belongs to us,” referring to complaints about Pokot raiders stealing animals from other communities.
A day after the Speaker’s utterances, Mr Lekakimon claimed, armed Pokot raiders invaded the Kiserian area and made away with livestock.
“He is not fit to hold any public office. Following his reckless statements, property has been destroyed, people killed and schools closed. Even if we don’t get any support for his removal due to our small numbers in the assembly, we will have aired our grievances,” said Mr Lekakimon, who was also the minority leader.
Leaders on the spot
MCAs from cattle rustling-prone areas of the county accused leaders from Tiaty sub-county of doing nothing to end bloody raids, arguing that this encouraged Pokot morans to unleash terror on other communities.
“The Speaker is a senior holder of public office within the Baringo County government and is mandated to conduct himself with high standards and responsibility, which he has failed to uphold,” Mr Lekakimon’s notice to the clerk said.
“His utterances have significantly contributed to the breach of law and hence is liable for violation of his oath of office.”
He said that leaders were living in fear after armed raiders started targeting them, citing an incident where assailants struck the home of Mukutani location Chief Benjamin Lecher and shot him in the leg.
This came barely a day after the governor at the time, Benjamin Cheboi, convened a leaders’ crisis peace meeting at an Emining hotel in a bid to find a lasting solution to cattle rustling.
Mr Kamket, however, dismissed the incitement claims, saying that his utterances had been taken out of context.
“My stand on matters of cattle rustling has always been very clear. I’ve always fought against this heinous crime of cattle theft. I’m sorry such an innocent statement can be taken out of context,” he said.
He claimed that he had urged the government to declare cattle rustling a national disaster, adding that he had suffered personally when he lost nine relatives to armed bandits from a neighbouring community.
Also in 2014, Mr Kamket and MCAs Nelson Lotela (Silale) and Daniel Tuwit (Ripkwo/Kositei) were charged with conspiring to commit murder and uttering inflammatory words that implied it was desirable to kill non-Pokots and government security officers.
They allegedly made utterances on Mashujaa Day that sparked clashes between warring communities in Baringo and Turkana.
Mr Kamket was arrested by CID officers at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as he travelled to Turkey on an official trip. He was taken to the Kabarnet Police Station to record a statement before he was charged in an Eldoret court.
He and the two MCAs from Tiaty were accused of incitement and conspiracy that allegedly led to the killings of more than 23 Administration Police officers in Kapedo.
But they were acquitted two years later, with Eldoret Chief Magistrate Wanjiku Cherere ruling that the evidence produced in court was based on hearsay.
More on this: Climate, land issues driving Laikipia strife
In November 2014, Baringo MCAs locked Mr Kamket out of his office on the grounds that he was not fit to hold public office.
The MCAs, who also barred the news media from entering the assembly premises, allegedly wanted to swear in the deputy Speaker, Douglas Kiplimo.
They argued that Mr Kamket needed to be cleared by the court, but they changed their plans on learning that he had taken the matter to court.
Mr Kamket argued that the MCAs had not followed the right procedures to remove him.
Earlier, some MCAs fought over a motion to suspend the Speaker, and his supporters and critics engaged in a heated argument that ended in a physical fight.
The commotion attracted members of the public, who attempted to storm the assembly, but police kept them at bay with teargas.
Two MCAs suffered injuries in the melee. The motion was tabled by Mr Lekakimon, the Ilchamus ward MCA.
"The Speaker should be suspended and relieved of his official duties pending the determination of the suit,” the notice of motion said.
Another controversy emerged in March 2015, when Mr Kamket was ousted from office and the seat declared vacant following a petition by residents from cattle rustling-prone areas in Baringo County.
The petitioners argued that the Speaker had violated the law and failed to avoid conflict of interest and was only pursuing his personal interests by supporting cattle rustling.
But the High Court in Eldoret reinstated Mr Kamket, describing his removal as unconstitutional and irregular because MCAs did not follow the right procedure.
“The judicial review reveals that the removal or suspension of the Speaker must follow all the rules of outstanding orders and it should be done fairly in the interest of the members of the public,” Justice George Kimondo said.
“MCAs erred to suspend the Speaker since the business of the suspension (did not appear) in the order paper of that day.”
In an interview with the Nation at the time, Mr Kamket said that people he called political proxies wanted to remove him from office to scuttle his 2017 political ambitions.
“My political opponents had conspired to cut my wings for them to have a clear run in 2017. From the word go, I knew my problems were related to a proxy war between Jubilee and Kanu in Rift Valley. I’m happy the will of the people prevailed,” Mr Kamket said at the time.
Two months later, more drama ensued at the Baringo County Assembly after the reinstated Speaker was denied entry by some MCAs.
Led by Majority Leader Elijah Toroitich, the MCAs said the Speaker still had other pending cases in court and could not be allowed to continue working.
The serjeant-at-arms closed the gate and said he had instructions from MCAs not to open it.
“Napiga hodi nirudi kazini jameni” (I am knocking to resume my duties), begged the embattled Speaker. “The ruling from the court has cleared me and I can now resume my work.”
However, the majority leader retorted: “You should clear yourself first. Taking into consideration that you still have other pending cases in court, go relax as you mend your fences first and we will have no problem with you.”
Mr Kiplimo, the deputy Speaker, insisted that Mr Kamket had ceased to be Speaker in March that year after he was removed following a petition by residents.
“The Speaker has no moral authority, because 40 out of 47 MCAs voted him out of the assembly. We are a representation of the people of this county and we are requesting him to wait for the verdict from court since he is still facing charges of incitement,” said Joseph Makilap, the Barwessa ward MCA at the time.
“If he lost the confidence of the assembly, why would he want to lead seven members who voted in favour of him? For normalcy to return in the House, Kamket should be away from office.”
In October 2015, he was warned by the Tiaty sub-county deputy commissioner at the time, Daniel Kirui, against holding illegal meetings in the area.
In a letter copied to the County Commissioner Peter Okwanyo, Mr Kamket was warned that he would be arrested over the alleged meetings.
“Be informed that it has come to the notice of this office and that of the Tiaty sub-county security and intelligence committee that you have been traversing the area holding meetings,” the letter said.
“Your meetings are contrary to existing laws which require one to notify the officer commanding station (OCS) of a meeting, not less than three days and not more than 14 days.”
The letter also warned Mr Kamket that if he failed to follow stipulated regulations, he would be committing an offence against the Public Order Act.
In the run-up to the 2017 elections, Mr Kamket was summoned by the DCI in Kabarnet to record a statement on allegations that he was supplying ammunition to youths in Tiaty.
He rejected the claims, noting that he was a law-abiding citizen and could not engage in search crimes.
“I see the matter as part of the wider scheme that has followed me since I took office after I was accused of incitement. That is an attempt by my political opponent, Mr Asman Kamama, to malign me in bad light for his own vested interests,” he said.
Mr Kamket won the Tiaty parliamentary seat on a Kanu ticket in the 2017 General Election, beating Mr Kamama, the incumbent.
He garnered 14,666 votes against the 7,978 won by Mr Kamama, who vied on a Party of Development and Reforms ticket.
All the seven MCAs from his constituency were also re-elected on Kanu tickets. He and the ward reps were branded ‘Eight Nil’ for trouncing their opponents.