Former minister of Culture and National Heritage Hon. William Ole Ntimama was laid to rest at his home in Motonyi village, Narok County on 14th September 2016. Mr. Ntimama who also served as Narok North Member of Parliament from 1988 to 2013 was a renowned orator and leader of the Maasai community. Thousands of mourners from all walks of life attended the burial of the late Ntimama in what appeared as a state send-off because of the many dignitaries who attended the burial.
The dignitaries present were President Uhuru Kenyatta, retired President Daniel Arap Moi, former Prime Minister of Tanzania Mr. Edward Lowassa, CORD principals Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, and Moses Wetangula, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, Interior Cabinet Secretary Generel Nkaissery and former Minister Nicholas Biwott. Governors present included; Narok county Governor Samuel Tunai, Evans Kidero of Nairobi, Wycliffe Oparanya of Kakamega, Isaac Ruto of Bomet, Moses Lenolkulan of Samburu, Alfred Mutua of Machakos, and Kajiado County Governor Dr. David Nkedianye. Senators present were Stephen Ole Ntutu of Narok and Gideon Moi of Baringo County. The majority leader in the National Assembly Hon. Aden Duale and COTU Secretary General Mr. Francis Atwoli were also present. Others were Members of County Assemblies, MPs and leaders from across the country.
The funeral service began at around 10.00am after the cortege arrived from the Lee funeral home in Nairobi. It was not things as usual in Narok town the whole day as businesses remained closed for the better part of the day because of the traffic jam and movement of thousands of people heading to Ntimama’s home. The Anglican Church of Kenya Archbishop Dr. Joseph Ole Sapit presided over the funeral service. In his sermon, Bishop Sapit pointed out that Kenyans must endure one another and embrace dialogue to reach amicable solutions to pertinent issues. He also hailed Hon. Ntimama for foretelling his rise to Archbishop of the Anglican Churches of Kenya sometime back.
The family of the Late Mzee Ntimama talked of him as a loving father, disciplinarian and a friend in equal measure. Led by his son Timothy Tempes and his daughter Lydia, they specifically pointed out his laughter and smile as an amazing character that attracted them to him. Moreover, they said, he was concerned with his family and that he could not hesitate taking them to the best schools locally and abroad. It is for the love of her late father that Lydia nearly broke to tears while reading the eulogy. Ntimama’s wife Mama Dorcas was however not included in the speeches.
Speaking during the funeral service, the Maasai community leaders led by Mr. Hassan Ole Kamwaro and Narok senator Hon. Stephen Ole Ntutu, urged the Maasai community to get united as advocated for by their leader Mzee Ole Ntimama. Narok County Governor Hon. Samuel Tunai said they will hold talks to weight the possibility of naming either a street or the Narok county stadium after Ole Ntimama.
The Mau politics
ODM leader Raila Odinga pointed out that he and the late Ntimama had campaigned for the reservation of the Mau forest, which is the source of water for the people of Narok County and other neighbouring counties. He condemned the government of the day for failing to come up with measures to conserve the Mau Forest. Moreover, Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula also echoed similar sentiments by stating that if one flies over the Mau they would wonder whether Kenya was at war because of the continued deforestation. This was however disregarded by Interior Cabinet Secretary Retired General Joseph Nkaissery who said the Maasai community know their rights and priorities and they needed no lecture on what to do. Nkaissery also dismissed Raila Odinga’s claim that the government failed to act on the TJRC report by stating that the government was working on the same.
Raila Odinga had earlier on reacted to National Majority leader Aden Duale’s sentiments that the parliament was going to look into the TJRC report to restore historical injustices. The CORD leader accused the Jubilee administration for failing to implement the report having been in power for the last 3 years. On the other hand, Hon. Duale thanked President Kenyatta for considering pastoralist communities in his government by pointing out that the marginalised community are part of the Jubilee Government. He also said Hon. Ole Ntimama was the chairperson of the pastoralist communities of Kenya, a position he diligently served to his demise. Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi said Ole Ntimama inducted him in the Ministry of Supplies and Marketing in 1989 and that he was a leader committed to the welfare of the people of Narok.
Furthermore, Mr.Mudavadi urged the Narok County Government to ensure no single cent from the revenue collection is lost just as Ntimama wished when he, Mudavadi, was minister for local Government. In his short message to the people, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka said Ntimama’s history is one that cannot fit in books so easily because he did so much for this nation. He remembered how Ntimama had the love for books and culture. At the same time, Kalonzo urged the Maasai people to remain strong and united. Nevertheless, the Former Tanzania Prime Minister Mr. Edward Lowasa who is also from the Maasai community in Tanzania described Mzee Ntimama as a reputable Maasai leader who advocated for his people’s rights and culture. The wife to Mr. Lowasa and a delegation from Tanzania accompanied him to the burial. In addition, retired President Moi passed his condolences by first pointing out that Ntimama was a leader whom he widely consulted with on many matters. He asked the Maasai people to embrace unity of purpose as they forge forward.
Uhuru hails Ntimama
In his speech, President Uhuru Kenyatta said Ntimama was a true leader who always talked to everyone regardless of their political affiliation. He wanted leaders to follow Mzee Ntimama’s legacy by avoiding divisive politics in which politicians engage in abuse. The president wanted leaders to keep in mind that dialogue is the way to get solutions to Kenyan problems saying that no individual will leave the country because this is where everyone belongs. Kenyatta also pointed out that people must engage in unity and development instead of aligning themselves along tribal lines in the name of unity at the expense of development. “Is there anyone who wants to languish in poverty?” Kenyatta posed.
Jubilee and ODM at loggerheads over Ntimama party membership
In what was seen as a tactic to lure supporters to his side, ODM leader Raila Odinga said Ntimama was an ODM party member to his death claiming that Ntimama had called him after visiting State House and told him he was still in ODM and that he had only gone to see the president over matters affecting residents of Narok. Mr. Odinga further said that as a party they had given Ntimama an award for Distinguish membership and service during the celebrations of the party’s ten years held in Mombasa on10th September 2016. He went ahead to say Ntimama was being buried with the ODM party flag. This was said amidst cheers from the congregation.
On the other hand, President Kenyatta countered Hon. Odinga by saying Ntimama had joined Jubilee and warned Odinga of criticizing Jubilee yet he had not organized his side. He talked Raila off by stating that Jubilee was in power and that they are firm to retain their seats. The president urged the opposition to get organised because his side is ready to face them in the battlefield during the next general elections.
Ntimama the public servant
Hon William Ole Ntimama served as minister in different ministries during president Moi’s regime and in the grand-coalition government. He worked in the Ministries of Supplies and Marketing, Local Government, Transport and Communications, and Culture and National Heritage. He was hailed for his determination to get educated and for advocating for education in marginalised communities. Ntimama served as the MP for Narok North for 25 years, a period during which he enlightened members of his Maasai community to take their children to school.
According to Maasai culture, it is believed that during an eclipse, a great man is destined to die. On such a day in Maasailand, it is said that cows did not graze as usual and that sheep and goats refused to leave their pens. Hon. Ntimama passed on just a day after the eclipse. Hon. William Ole Ntimama died at the age of 89 years on 1st September 2016. He left behind a widow Mama Dorcas Ntimama, 6 children, 29 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.
Hon. Ntimama went to Government Maasai School during the colonial period where he excelled in the Kenya African Primary Education (KAPE) examinations despite the many challenges. He then joined Kahuhia Teachers Training College from where he was deployed to teach at his former school- Government Maasai School where he taught History and Kiswahili. He later sat for his ‘O’ level examinations in 1953 at Alliance High School as a private candidate. He went back to teaching and at the same time enrolled for a Diploma Course in Law at Worsely College in the United Kingdom in 1954.Furthermore, he became a member of the Narok African District Council. Later in 1959, he was appointed as a member of the Legislative Council (LEGCO). The late Hon. Ntimama became chairperson of Narok County Council in 1974 and later elected to parliament in 1988 as MP for Narok North. He was on several occasions the Chief Guest during graduation events at Maasai Mara University.