Of all of Nicholas Biwott’s nicknames, “The Total Man” is perhaps the most famous. He coined it himself in a speech in parliament where he said that it was important for a politician to be “a man, a total man.”
But there was another name that also started on the floor of Parliament and stuck, and with it the story of a sexual assault incident in New Zealand. The nickname was “The Bull of Auckland.”
On November 15th 1995, James Orengo, while asking why GG Kariuki was being allowed to speak from the dispatch box, coined the nickname. His exact phrase was “…”The Bull of Auckland” or rather Hon Biwott…” It was a jab at Biwott for indecently exposing himself in Auckland five days before.
Less than a week before, then President Moi and a powerful delegation had left for Auckland, New Zealand. They would be attending the different sessions of the Commonwealth Heads of State Meeting (CHOGM).
On the morning the CHOGM started, Biwott either indecently exposed himself to or actually tried to rape a housekeeper who came in to clean his room. She ran out of the room and informed her manager, who called in the police. The police in turn called the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a small, important but oft-overlooked diplomatic spat followed.
If this story sounds familiar, it’s because of its similarity to the recent case of disgraced French economist and politician Dominique Strauss-Khan. Unlike the DSK case though, Biwott got away with it with his reputation and office.
He was quickly bundled into a car and on a plane to Singapore, which would be President Moi’s next stop after the meeting. He had to wait for the delegation to get there after the CHOGM was done.
Very little is known about the victim. In a parliamentary question about the incident, a Kenyan legislator said she was the wife of a pilot who worked for International Airlines. This was never confirmed, and nothing else is known about her.
Even the exact details of the 1995 diplomatic spat that followed are still murky. Mackinon, the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs, wrote a letter to his Kenyan counterpart, Kalonzo Musyoka, explaining why Biwott had to be deported. The exact contents of the letter were kept secret but Kalonzo had to answer to a question by a parliamentarian a few weeks later. So we know a few things.
Up to this point, the only mention on record of the incident had been vague news pieces and Orengo’s snarky comment. Kalonzo’s reply confirmed it was a member of the Kenyan delegation, not an official. He dodged the question of who it was even after Martin Shikuku tried to pin him down using Standing Orders.
He also downplayed the rape part and instead said it was sexual harassment in the form of indecent exposure. What he said later, in his book, is that the Kenyan delegation threatened to leave the meeting if the story was made public. So the Kiwis, unwilling to start a full page diplomatic spat with a fellow Commonwealth state, let him leave instead of charging him with the crime.
Notice Biwott’s weak protestations, and the reply from other members of parliament.
In the years after, the tag “Bull of Auckland” became lost in details. It seemed almost as if Biwott was being praised for the sexual assault. “The Total Man” was also now a “Bull.” In a largely masculine legislature, the man was being lionized for “being a man.” He had three wives at home, who were themselves a topic over the years, and had left a mark in Auckland. It was the unbridled virility of a “total man” being celebrated by his fellow men through an apt nickname.
That’s definitely one way to see it. Another is that reply above by other legislators “Shame! Shame! “Bull of Auckland”!”
Under the protection of the floor of Parliament, legislators were calling out a powerful Moi man over his sexual crime. They knew his position in the inner circles of the Moi government, as well as the high-profile diplomatic spat, meant he would never be charged. So they went for public ridicule.
In the years after, opposition MPs would repeatedly bring up the incident, using it to silence Biwott. In this heated parliamentary discussion in 1997 (September 30), Raila Odinga, pinned to the corner by his own argument, quickly brings up Auckland, New Zealand and adds “where the hon Member had such a chance to consult foreigners.”
See how, in his reply, Biwott brings up the same argument he had raised in 1995, that whoever was reminding him of Auckland was “bankrupt in ideas.” He used the word “bankrupt” in both responses, two years apart. It could be nothing, but then again this was a man who believed money moves the world, and always thought himself the smartest man in the room.
After another case of attempted rape in February 2003, Robinson Githae, then Assistant Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, resurrected the name with a promise. In the 2003 case, Mt. Elgon MP John Serut had raped, or tried to rape, a member of the cleaning staff at Continental House, the building that houses legislators’ offices. Githae promised that “We are not going to condone the “Bulls of Auckland”, “Bulls of Continental House” and the “Bulls of Mt. Elgon.” But we did.
Cover image from Mavulture.com.
One story is good,
till Another is told.