Boni Khalwale the bullfighter: Reformist or just a rebel without a cause?
It is either he has a knack for controversy, or controversy is just fond of him. But If there is one politician who has captured the Kenyan political psyche in recent times, it’s one Dr Boni Khalwale.
Known as the bull fighter due to his love for traditional Luhya bull fighting sport, his energy and zeal is comparable to none.
Not forgetting his unique dancing style which has earned him the nickname, one-legged-dancer.
His proverbial rise from grass to grace to emerge one of the most formidable forces in Kenyan politics, has greatly endeared him to common mwananchi.
It is this perception of identifying with the common mwananchi which has seen him christened Bonni Mtetezi, a title which he proudly wears like a precious badge on his official Twitter handle.
He is a self-styled reformist who is ambitious, shrewd, liberal, independent-minded and perhaps a daredevil who does not shy away from issues irrespective of how uncomfortable or dangerous they may be.
Khalwale is a hard nut to crack. While some view him as a defender of the plight of the down trodden, there are those who see him as just a rebel without a cause.
The 59-year-old political theatrics started when he was a mere 22-year-old. The young Khalwale was linked to the 1982 coup attempt. At the time, he had just joined University of Nairobi as a first year student.
“I can’t help but laugh when I think about it today.“I never even thought about the danger I was exposing myself to,” reminisced Khalwale in an interview with a local publication, but in a quick rejoinder, says he would do it all over again if he believed it was for the best interest of the nation.
But it was not until 20 years later when the former medical officer who has served as a doctor in Kakamega and Mombasa, made his maiden entry into politics in 2002.
He seemed to have ruffled some feathers while serving as the Parliamentary Accounts Committee Chair in the 10th Parliament in Kenya, when he led a vote of no confidence against high profile leaders in the Cabinet.
Maybe it is his unorthodox ways of tackling issues, that have seen the former Kakamega gubernatorial aspirant, walk a lonely path in the murky waters of politics since he joined in 2002.
The certified medical doctor attracted laughter and disdain online in equal measure when he was captured holding stones ready to retaliate, during the recently held Kibra by election which was engulfed with violence.
Khalwale was in Kibra constituency apparently to keep an eye on Jubilee’s aspirant, McDonald Mariga’s votes during the vote to elect a new Member of Parliament for the region.
In a clip which was widely shared online, the former senator was captured in DC grounds hurling stones at a rival group which confronted him.
This was moments after he had been seen fleeing when rowdy youths engaged him at Mashimoni area.
Undoubtedly, much to Khalwale’s chagrin, Orange Democratic Movement’s (ODM) Imran Okoth emerged victorious and Mariga readily conceded defeat soon after, and even went ahead to call his competitor to congratulate him on his win.
However, those who thought the Ikolomani bull fighter would bury his head wallowing in shame and self pity were in for a rude shock as the bull fighter literally took the bull by its horns just days after the ordeal.
In a blistering attack televised on national TV station, Khalwale sought to defend his outrageous actions.
“Never in the culture of a Luhya man can you allow an uncircumcised boy to challenge you and you run away,” he said on NTV.
The fourth born in a family of 10, Khalwale rose from a humble beginning. He was born 59 years ago to a peasant family in Kakamega country.
His mother, who Khalwale fondly refers as an industrialist, used to brew traditional alcohol, chang’aa to put bread on the table.
The former medic is so proud of his origin and cultural heritage, which is evident on his profile where he proudly refers to himself as son of a traditional industrialist and a cultural icon.
The started his Primary education in 1967 in Malinya Primary School where he sat for his CPE. He proceeded for his EACE in Musingu High School and later joined Kakamega High School, where he did his KACE. In 1981 he was admitted in the University of Nairobi for his undergraduate degree in Medicine.
Khalwale is a proud polygamist, a fact he never shies away from. In past interviews, the former medical officer revealed that he had wives. Adelaide Khalwale and Josephine Khalwale. He is blessed with seven children.
His first wife, Adelaide succumbed to cervical cancer in October 5, 2019, where a distraught Khalwale took to social media to share his grief about the demise of his wife who he seemed to love dearly.
Undoubtedly, the death was devastating to the politician who barely a year ago, had evoked admiration on social media when he showered praises on his late wife for her academic prowess.
Khalwale ventured into politics in 2002. Through Narc party ticket, he clinched the Ikolomani Member of Parliament seat. He went on to retain the seat in 2007 but this time on New Ford Kenya ticket.
He also had a stint as an Assistant Minister of East African Community for one year.However, his 2007 election was short lived as it was later nullified in February 2011.
That did not deter the relentless Khalwale who beat the odds to reclaim his seat on May the same year, in a hotly contested by-election. His landmark win against his rival from the ODM party which was dominant in the region, attracted leaders from various parts who joined hands to campaign for him.
In 2012 he vied for the senatorial position in Kakamega on UDF party where he easily swayed through flooring his billionaire opponent Cyrus Jirongo.
His tenure as a senator was mired with bad blood with his parental party which sponsored him to Parliament. Constant wrangles were witnessed between the now turned rebel and the UDF leader Musalia Mudavadi who accused him of using the party to advance his selfish gains.
Not one to settle for less, the self proclaimed activist seemed to have bitten more than he could chew in 2016, when he declared publicly his intention to contest for the gubernatorial seat in Kakamega. He went on to vie on a Ford Kenya ticket where he lost to his ODM rival Wycliffe Oparanya.
You can also not rule out his love for bull fighting sport which has greatly endeared him to the local youth. Being an intellect and a champion for cultural traditions, he has a unique way of indentifying with the jobless graduates who feel betrayed by the system as well as the elderly people.
Whether he is indeed a reformist or just a rebel without a cause, we can only wait with bated breath. But one thing is for sure, the future is full of possibilities for the Ikolomani bull fighter.