10 things to know about William Ole Ntimama
The late William Ole Ntimama was one of the oldest politicians in Kenya. Here are ten things to remember about the leader whose political career started in 1974 when he was elected the Chairman Narok County Council:
1. Maasai with Meru roots – Ntimama was born in February 1930, Katheri Village in Meru to a Maasai father and a local woman. In April 2009 he traveled to his place of birth to reconnect with his people.
2. Did not kill a lion as a young moran – In an interview with the Daily Nation in 2013, the late Ntimama confessed that he never killed a lion as a young Maasai moran, an act that is widely perceived as part of the right of passage in his community.
3. He was the defacto ‘King of the Maasai’ – During his long political career, Ntimama distinguished himself as a great agitator and defender of Maasai rights. As a result, he gained unrivaled popularity among the people of his community to become one of the most influential Masaai leaders.
4. Champion for cultural practices – He is on record for campaigning to push the Maasai to ignore family planning and bear as many children as possible to raise the community’s numbers. He is also known to have been lukewarm towards the campaign to discard female genital mutilation (FGM) in his community.
5. Studied Law at Oxford University – Ntimama was a holder of a Diploma in Legal Studies from Oxford University, a course he studied by correspondence. “Being an independent student, you have to be very disciplined. I stopped pursuing higher education when politics and family came in,” he was once quoted in an interview with the Daily Nation.
6. Great admirer of Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln – Ntimama once singled out the two American leaders as the people who influenced him the most; Martin Luther King for leading the civil rights movement, and Abraham Lincoln for emancipating the black man from slavery. He also had great admiration for Mahatma Gandhi.
7. Lover of books and an avid reader – In his own account, the late Ntimama was a great lover of books. From his many travels abroad, over the years he build an impressive library of books on history, literature and biographies of great people, which he read in his spare time. In later years he donated his stock to Narok Library, which he termed as his heritage to his people.
8. Coined the infamous ‘lie low like an envelope’ phrase – At the height of the politically ethic clashes of the 1990s, the late Ntimama warned members of a certain community living in his constituency to “lie low like an envelope”. But in later years, he disowned the that infamous remark.
“It was an antelope, but the press picked envelope and it became so popular I didn’t want to interfere. It remains envelope in the books of history,” he said in an interview with the Daily Nation in 2013.
9. Nyayo loyalist-turned-critic – Prior to the reintroduction of multiparty politics, Ntimama was among a small clique of powerful ministers who held sway within retired president Daniel arap Moi’s government and the then ruling party Kanu. In later years he would shift allegiance to ODM leader Raila Odinga and even termed Mr Moi as “one of the worst dictators who did not want anybody to go ahead of him.”
10. Served three different governments – Prior to his retirement from active politics in 2013, Ntimama served in the Jomo Kenyatta, Moi and Mwai Kibaki governments. During this period, he held plum portfolios in various ministries including the Ministry of National Heritage and Culture, Ministry of State in the Office of the President, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Transport and Communication and the Ministry of Local Government.