Timothy Mibei – Not cut out for politics

Timothy Mibei served as Minister for Public Works between 1989 and 1992. His entry into the Cabinet came as a consequence of President Daniel arap Moi’s policy to replace Cabinet Ministers who he had relieved of their duties, with new ones from the same region. Thus Mibei replaced John Koech after the latter differed with Moi.

Mibei attended Kabianga High School and later taught at Gitarwet Primary School in Bureti area before changing his profession to join the Judiciary. He studied law through correspondence while teaching, and eventually graduated with a Law degree from Dar es Salaam University. Shortly after, he was posted to Nandi as a Resident Magistrate in Kapsabet.

After falling out with Jonathan Ng’eno, Moi needed a Kipsigis kingpin. The powers that be, namely Isaac Salat, Ezekiel Barngetuny and Ayub Chepkwony, recommended Mibei. “Moi agreed to support him in the mlolongo (queue-voting) General Election of 1988,” recalled Paul Sang, who later became the area MP.

He said that Moi brought in Mibei as a stopgap measure, explaining that he wanted someone who could execute his political agenda of cementing his grip on the larger Kericho District. According to Sang, although Moi had a soft spot for Mibei, he disappointed the President because he failed to execute the agenda. Moi therefore reinstated Ng’eno later in the 1992 General Election.

Throughout his life in active politics, Mibei was a KANU fanatic and was among the politicians who campaigned against the introduction of multiparty politics. He joined other KANU enthusiasts in various meetings held before the advent of pluralism in different parts of the former Rift Valley Province to warn residents against embracing the multiparty form of government.

Because of the competitive and dynamic Kipsigis politics, Mibei could not keep pace with the strategists, forcing those who brought him into politics to go back to the drawing board as pressure for a multiparty Kenya was rising.

“He was not aggressive. Moi and KANU wanted somebody who was visible and vocal to keep opposition out of the larger Kericho district,” said Chepkebit Mibei, a former Kericho branch KANU Chairman and current Chairman of the Kenya Farmers’ Association. “Kipsigis bordered Kisumu and other areas where opposition to the ruling party was strong. Party leadership had to be active to ward off opposition. If you were not active, you were kicked out. That is why there was frequent change of leadership. Those who couldn’t withstand the opposition or were complacent were shown the door by the electorate or the party decision-making organs.”

Mibei did not fit well in the vibrant Kericho politics of the day which Nick Salat, an Assistant Minister in the Office of the President, and his Belgut counterpart Ayub Chepkwony, controlled. Like Barngetuny in the neighbouring Nandi, Salat and Chepkwony had Moi’s ear and could make or break political careers. Chepkwony was Moi’s brother-in-law. He was married to a younger sister of Lena Moi, the President’s wife.

Those who knew Mibei say he was a family man who was contented with what he had. “He valued his cows, his land and loved his children. He had no greed. He had respect for both young and old,” said Salat, a former Bomet MP and current KANU Secretary General.

Franklin Bett, a former State House Comptroller and Bureti MP between 2007 and 2013, remembers Mibei as a good listener who respected Moi and served the country with dedication. “He was somebody who did things to the satisfaction of all. He never complained even when things were against him. He respected authority,” Bett recalled.

Samuel Too, a former Director of the Board of Ewaso Nyiro South Development Authority (ENSDA) who hails from Litein, said the former Minister “…spent much time fighting for his survival and expended energy defending his boss at the national level, at the expense of development in the local area.”

Chepkebit Mibei believes that the former Minister could have done better in public service than in politics, and that he was a gentleman fit for corporate leadership.

Though a one-term MP, Mibei enjoyed easy access to Moi. He enjoyed the privilege of calling or meeting him at any time. Unfortunately, he was neither aggressive nor a good ground mobiliser. Unlike other Public Works and Housing Ministers who made the Ministry their cash cow, he left the Ministry without being mentioned in any scandal involving loss of money earmarked for projects.

“Despite controlling huge infrastructure funds, he did not receive kickbacks that would have changed his life for good. He died a poor man,” said Sang.

As a loyal KANU member against the introduction of multiparty politics, Mibei joined the independence party hawks like Kipkalya Kones, William ole Ntimama, Nicholas Biwott and Henry Kosgey in various meetings held before the advent of pluralism in different parts of the former Rift Valley Province to warn residents against embracing it.

Samson ole Tuya, former Narok South MP, remembers him as a generous person who contributed in harambees, adding that he never reneged on his pledges. “I once went to his office to request him to fix a road in my constituency and it didn’t take long before the works started. He also used to give me money for fundraising,” he recalled. Tuya said Mibei only spoke in Parliament when answering questions about his Ministry, adding that before becoming a Minister, he spoke in support of the government policies especially after presidential speeches. “He spoke when there was need. He was always on the right side of things when loyalty counted,” he said.

Said his childhood friend William Kettienya, “He once told me that he was reading law because he wanted to join the Judiciary and become a Chief Justice.  I think politics stood in the way of that ambition.”

After losing his seat, Mibei left Nairobi for his ancestral home in Bureti where he lived a quiet life. He later died from a degenerative nervous system disease in 2013.

“He couldn’t even afford specialised treatment. Had it not been for local politicians who noticed his deteriorating health, he could have died unnoticed.”

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