The Kenya Forum | The misreported life and ‘death’ of Nicholas Biwott - The Kenya Forum

January 27, 2014


Citizen TV reporter Willis Raburu declared Nicholas Biwott dead via Twitter only to announce a short while later that he was alive and well.

What else have we got wrong in our reporting on the life of this most influential of statesmen?

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The misreported life and ‘death’ of Nicholas Biwott

The misreported life and ‘death’ of Nicholas Biwott

“The report of my death was an exaggeration”, declared the famous American writer Mark Twain (often misquoted) in June 1897. Former cabinet minister Nicholas Biwott must be thinking very similar thoughts after Citizen TV reporter Willis Raburu declared him dead via Twitter only to announce a short while later that Biwott was alive and well and speaking at a party in Toroplongon in Keiyo South to celebrate 100 years of life and work by Catholic priest Fr Thomas Kigen’s mother.

This, however, is but the latest in a long line of incidences of the misreporting of the life (and in this case death!) of Nicholas Biwott, a man for whom some sections of the press, civil society, politicians and even western academics seem rarely to let the facts get in the way of a good story.

On the Robert Ouko murder, Biwott is provably innocent

Kenya Forum readers will know that we have made a study of the murder of Dr Robert Ouko, a case in which way back Biwott was ‘adversely’ mentioned but of which any objective examination of the available information prove him to be utterly innocent of any involvement. (See ‘The murder of Dr Robert Ouko: What really happened’, and, ‘Nicholas Biwott libel case considered in Miguna Miguna vs. Odinga’).

[So absurd has the reporting of Dr Robert Ouko’s murder become that as Kenya Forum readers will know, when the TJRC concluded that there had been no meeting between Ouko and President Bush during the ‘Washington trip’, one of the alleged motives for the murder, the Daily Nation reported the next day on its front page ‘Dr Ouko was killed not long after a private meeting with President Bush’! See ‘TJRC report, and is Robert Ouko’s murder being covered up?’]

On ‘tribal clashes handled in Kiliku and Akiwumi investigations, Biwott found innocent (again)

Others over the years have used the most dubious means to try and pin involvement in ‘tribal clashes’ in Kenya on Nicholas Biwott, including using one witness who was utterly discredited, another who was declared mad, and even placing Biwott’s name on a list of those to be investigated even though the report concerned had not mentioned him in its ‘evidence’. (See ‘The Kenya Human Rights Commission Report – Kiliku, Akiwumi, tribal clashes and the forces of impunity’).

Kroll report – multiple errors

Then, of course, there was the infamous ‘Kroll Report’ that was published via Wikileaks in late 2007 with many pages missing and some ‘targets’ edited out. Nicholas Biwott’s name was kept in for publication but the report contained multiple errors, including naming the wrong lawyer, linking Biwott to a company that did not exist (the Government of Kenya Ltd), stating he had a farm in Australia (he doesn’t) and declaring he owned a large part of Safaricom, which he did not and never has.

(For much more on this subject see the Kenya Forum report ‘The Allen Stanford scandal, Kenya and the Kroll connection’ and the detailed study in ‘An investigation into the Kenya Kroll Report: Project KTM’).

Turkwel Dam

One section of the Kroll Report looked at allegations over the Turkwel Dam project and again got it entirely wrong even though few subjects have so much publicly available information for study.

Turkwel Dam, perhaps the most major and prestigious civil engineering project ever completed in Kenya, was brought in under budget and completed ahead of schedule under the auspices of the then Minister of Energy, yes, that’s right, Nicholas Biwott. (For more on this subject look at the Kenya Forum’s posting ‘Scrutiny on application of funds in Kenya’s dam building projects’ and at the relevant section of ‘An investigation into the Kenya Kroll Report: Project KTM’).

Biwott’s wife Jewish, not Isreali

For some reason the media and not a few academics, cannot even get the details of Biwott’s family right. His wife, Hannie, is usually referred to as an ‘Israeli’ when she is in fact a woman of Dutch-Jewish origin who survived the Holocaust by the skin of her teeth and eventually made her home in Kenya. Again this is publicly available information and you would have thought that professional journalists and academics would know that being Jewish doesn’t make you an Israeli (but the Forum suspects that ‘Israeli’ sounds more sinister, so spices up the story).

Mark Twain went on to live for another 13 years after the erroneous announcement of his death. The Kenya Forum wishes a long life to Nicholas Biwott, as we do to all, and we hope that in the meantime the media and others will at least try to get the facts right about him – but we doubt that they will.


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