Andrew Chepkoiywo Kiptoon, who served as a Roads and Public Works minister for two-and-a-half years from 1998 to 2000, had an uneasy relationship with President Daniel arap Moi. The Baringo North Member of Parliament (1997 to 2002) was known for freely speaking his mind, a trait that did not sit well with Moi and the KANU hierarchy. Kiptoon, who beat Willy Kamuren after his decade-long tenure as area MP, streamlined the Roads ministry which had earlier been taken over by the so-called cowboy road contractors, earning him accolades and condemnation in equal measure.
He is said to have differed with Moi and those close to him on several occasions for persistently demanding prudent management of Kenya’s economy and independence for ministers to discharge their mandate. Interestingly, his brother Japheth Kiptoon, a former long-serving Vice Chancellor of Egerton University, was a close friend of Moi.
In a rare instance, Andrew Kiptoon contested the Baringo North parliamentary seat and won without blessings from Moi who would have preferred Kamuren as MP. “Moi didn’t want him to contest the seat but he couldn’t do anything because voters who were long tired of Kamuren, wanted change,” said Kibet Kulei, a member of the Baringo County Assembly. Initially, Moi had vowed not to allow Kiptoon to be elected despite his popularity, but backed down when he realised that the engineer would most likely defect to the opposition and still win the election. Moi reluctantly let the electorate have their way because he did not want opposition in his Baringo backyard, Kulei said.
According to Kulei, the former minister had developed an interest in politics in the early 1960s and had been nursing a development agenda for his people. But since he was not a KANU cheerleader, Moi viewed Kiptoon with suspicion. “Even when he was elected, he still viewed him as an opposition sympathiser. Because of independence of mind, he couldn’t find his way to the kitchen cabinet,” said Kulei.
The Democratic Party Shadow Minister for Roads Joshua Toro said Kiptoon was the most dedicated and hardworking minister in the government.
Born in 1946 in Kapchepkoiywo in Kabartonjo, he started school in 1955 at the African Inland Church Mission School, but instead of starting from class one, he went straight to class two. His family said he was too bright to fit in class one. He sat for his Kenya African Preliminary Examination (KAPE) in 1961 at the same school and proceeded to Alliance High School for both his O and A level examinations. In 1968 he joined the University of Nairobi, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in structural engineering.
After graduation he worked for four years as a consultant with Cowi Consult, a Danish engineering company that sent him to Denmark to pursue a one-year Diploma course in engineering. After returning from Denmark in 1976, he left his job to set up a company known as Chauhan Kiptoon Consulting Engineers, which he co-owned with a native Asian. Several buildings in Nairobi can be attributed to his engineering skills. Along with other engineers, he was requested by the government to build and expand water infrastructure in the country.
Before he was sacked from his Cabinet position Kiptoon, considered by both KANU and the Opposition as rational, moderate, affable, efficient and a dynamic minister in the Moi government, was pushing for implementation of the Roads Board Bill. The Bill was supposed to transfer the management of the fuel levy to districts (counties) under the supervision of elected leaders.
This sparked a falling out with powerful people who wanted their private companies to win tenders for road repairs and construction. He was also determined to streamline the dilapidated roads sector by blacklisting contractors who did shoddy work. The axe fell on him after persistent lobbying and prodding by influential road contractors who were in business with powerful government officials.
“He refused to bend to the whims of powerful men including Moi. It is a blow to the fight against graft,” Mukhisa Kituyi, Kimilili MP (FORD-Kenya) told the Daily Nation. He added: “Kiptoon was the best minister from the Kalenjin community. He was the example we used to illustrate that there are good people among the Kalenjin around President Moi.”
MPs from both sides of Parliament described him as open and transparent on national issues, adding that he was moderate and a likeable member of the Moi Cabinet.
A shocked opposition, which further described Kiptoon as an anti-corruption crusader, urged the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, that were withholding aid because of runaway graft and poor governance, to continue doing so because of the sacking of Kiptoon.
The Democratic Party Shadow Minister for Roads, Joshua Toro, declared that Kiptoon was the most dedicated and hardworking minister in the government. “As an experienced engineer, he knew all the tricks contractors and the ministry officials used to steal money from the government. He was the right man for the job because nobody could dupe him in the quality of the work done,” he told the Daily Nation.
Toro added that Kiptoon was honest and forthright in his reply to questions and complaints by MPs. “When the Roads Board Bill came before the House Committee, Mr Kiptoon listened to suggestions we gave and incorporated all of them in the final document,” said Toro.
Some said Kiptoon had invited his sacking by clinging to the ‘Mr Clean’ tag in the midst of looters.
Several rebel KANU MPs described Kiptoon as honest, independent-minded and a professional who never exhibited sycophantic traits; they admitted that his sacking was glaring evidence of Moi’s inability to tolerate independence of thought by his ministers.
At the time of his appointment as Roads minister, Kiptoon lamented about the poor state of the roads in the country and pledged that under his watch, he would improve Kenya’s road network. Anthony Kimetto, a former Sotik MP, said Kiptoon wanted to run his ministry independently, but he did not succeed because all ministries were managed from State House. “He was in the right place at the wrong time. He wanted to discharge his duties professionally, but it was the time when Moi was both the president and the minister,” he commented.
During his tenure in the Cabinet Kiptoon, a family man who now leads a quiet life in Nairobi, once questioned why power rationing, under Kenya Power and Lighting Company, was the order of the day; he publicly blamed it on mismanagement and habitually rubbed the establishment the wrong way, continuing to point out the ills afflicting the country even after leaving the Cabinet.
The bold maverick once challenged Moi in Parliament to declare whether he was retiring after 2002 because of the uncertainty of the economy. He said the prevailing atmosphere was discouraging local and foreign investments.
Kiptoon, considered as the voice of reason in KANU, had a warm relationship with the Opposition. He once differed with his party over an attack by its members on Mwai Kibaki who was then the Leader of Opposition in Parliament. He told the party to stop blaming the Opposition for the problems the country was facing, like the donor funding freeze.
Kimetto remarked that in the days when KANU was in power, ministers were just figureheads with no absolute mandate over their ministries.
“It was the time when ministers couldn’t make decisions without consulting the president or other people near him. Kiptoon did things the way he wanted but couldn’t last,” he said. According to Kimetto, had Kiptoon stayed in the ministry for five years, he could have harnessed funds and fixed problems that bedevilled the roads sector when local and international donors did not trust the government. “He could have utilised the fuel levy to fix roads. He was shown the door when he wanted to use billions of shillings in the kitty. He had to go to give way to hyenas who were salivating for the money.”
Kimetto added that the minister was conversant with the state of all roads in the country and regretted that he was sacked before he fixed roads in his constituency.
Kiptoon was one of the people who suggested that the six million-year-old man whose skeleton was discovered in Baringo North be given the name Arrorin Tugenensis. The former minister, who left the Cabinet without any scandal, hailed from the Arror sub-tribe of the Tugen people group.