Caleb Kositany: Loyalty pays for politician who defended Ruto in battle with Uhuru

Caleb
Caleb

If loyalty were the only thing that counted in government appointments, then Caleb Kositany earned his selection by President William Ruto last week to chair the board of the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA).

Few politicians have demonstrated allegiance to Dr Ruto quite like the former Member of Parliament for Soy. He has stood with Ruto throughout, including when his fortunes were wobbly.

The past two years, though, have not been particularly flattering for the maize farmer from Uasin Gishu.

At the height of the bitter political fallout between then-President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto in March 2021, Mr Kositany was stripped of his position as the deputy secretary-general of the then-ruling Jubilee Party for not aligning with the party position.

At the time, Mr Kositany had joined and continued to drum up support for the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), the vehicle Dr Ruto would use for his State House bid.

Hoping to ride on his proximity to Dr Ruto to win voters’ trust, Mr Kositany threw his hat into the ring in the race for the governor’s position in Uasin Gishu County.

But he lost the UDA nomination to little-known Jonathan Bii alias ‘Koti Moja', dimming his political fortunes.

In the run-up to the polls, UDA had enjoyed a fanatical following in the county, with most party flagbearers winning their races.

Mr Kositany would later run as an independent candidate where he came a distant fourth in the race won with a landslide by Mr Bii.

After the loss, Mr Kositany kept a low profile, barely appearing in public. Until last week when he was thrust into the national limelight again.

He, however, denies sliding into oblivion after the elections, saying he has been part of a team working to ‘‘put the government in order.’’

‘‘The previous administration, which we were part of, had taken running the country very casually. You can see it in the state of the economy. Morale in government has been very low,’’ he says.

A victim of the purge on Dr Ruto’s allies in the Jubilee administration by Uhuru two years ago, Mr Kositany is today a beneficiary of the purge on the former President's allies by Dr Ruto.

He will now chair the board of one of the richest State corporations in the country, as the incumbent, Isaac Awoundo, and an ally of Uhuru gives way.

The KAA is charged with the management of airports and airstrips in the country. In the 2022/23 budget, for instance, the KAA was allocated Sh713 million for the construction and expansion of airports and airstrips.

The aviation industry contributes 5.1 percent to Kenya’s gross domestic product.

His first order of business at the KAA, he says, is to boost efficiency at airports in the country.

‘‘We must shorten the amount of time guests and their baggage are handled at our airports. We must also modernise our airports and improve services to meet international standards,’’ Mr Kositany told the Business Daily, adding that taking airport security a notch higher will be his priority.

As a first-time legislator, Mr Kositany may have taken the front line of the UDA campaign that sought to portray him as a 'hustler' taking on the country's political dynasties, including the family of former President Daniel arap Moi.

Kanu chairman Gideon Moi, a son of Kenya's second president Moi, backed the candidacy of Raila Odinga, who was also endorsed by then President Uhuru Kenyatta — the son of Kenya's founding President Jomo Kenyatta.

But Mr Kositany himself has links with the so-called dynasties.

His elder brother Stephen Kositany, a rally driver, was the husband of Jennifer Chemutai Moi, the firstborn child of former President Moi.

Stephen married Jennifer, a businesswoman with interests in jewellery and farming, born in 1953 and educated at Kenya High and the US. The elder Kositany died in a road accident.

His daughter Stacey Kositany is married to Sam Chelang’a, the son of former minister and chief administrative secretary Lina Jebii Kilimo.

Away from politics, Kositany is an ardent golfer. A friend describes him as "solid with the club."

A 7-handicap, Kositany plays at Karen Country Club, Eldoret Golf Club, Royal Golf Club and Railways Golf Club, where he is a member.

Mr Kositany's near-obsessive defence of Dr Ruto occasionally landed Kositany in trouble.

In 2022, for instance, he and his Kapsaret counterpart Oscar Sudi were implicated in an attack that saw Mr Odinga’s chopper pelted with stones.

Mr Odinga was returning from the burial ceremony of businessman Jackson Kibor at Soy in Eldoret when the air shield of his chopper was damaged by youths.

The duo would record a statement with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) in Nakuru in an incident that saw nearly 20 young men arrested in connection with the offence.

Now back in government, Kositany’s dark days appear to be well behind him.

While he appeared to kowtow to his boss William Ruto, Kositany also cut the figure of an independent-minded politician in some situations.

A month to last year’s General Elections, the politician asked Ruto to take ownership of both successes and failures of the government of President Kenyatta of which he was a part.

For years, Ruto had appeared to distance himself from the gaffes of the Jubilee administration even as he took credit for its accomplishments in what critics saw as dishonesty.

‘‘In the current political setup (of the handshake), none of the leaders has worked with Uhuru more than Ruto,’’ he said.

‘‘I think Jubilee just wanted people who can sing to the tune irrespective of how ugly the tune is,’’ said he when he was sent packing from the ruling party.

Observers will be keen to see the tune he dances to in his new role.

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Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.