Cord leader Raila Odinga consoles Lydia Ntimama, a daughter of the late veteran politician and former minister William ole Ntimama, at the family’s home in Lavington on September 2, 2016. Mr Ntimama died on September 1, 2016 at his Narok home. PHOTO| DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP
A sombre mood engulfed the rural home of former Cabinet minister and veteran politician William ole Ntimama at Olchoro in Narok County on Friday morning as residents mourned his death.
The Maasai leader passed away at around 10.30pm on Thursday night at his rural home, located in Narok North, before his body was taken to Nairobi’s Lee Funeral home, according to a family source.
Narok County Police Commander Jillo Galgalo said Mr Ntimama, 88, had been receiving treatment at his Narok home for an undisclosed illness for the last one month.
A close relative of Mr Ntamama told the Nation that the renowned politician had complained of a headache shortly after dinner on Thursday.
County residents, upon learning about his demise, trooped to his two homes in Narok Town and Olchoro ranch in Narok North Sub-County to mourn the self-proclaimed Maasai spokesman.
Local leaders, including area members of Parliament and religious leaders, were also among those who paid tribute and sent their condolences to the family and friends of the late politician.
They eulogized the fallen former minister as an intelligent and courageous man who served the country diligently.
Narok Governor Samuel Ole Tunai, Senator Stephen Ole Ntutu and other area MPs put their political differences aside to pay tribute to Ntimama who was for decades known as the Maasai kingpin and community spokesman.
“The late Ntimama has undoubtedly set the bar for upcoming political leaders, not only in Narok but also in the whole country,” said Narok North MP Moitalel Ole Kenta who spoke on phone from Sweden.
Mr Kenta described Ntimama as a committed leader whose death has left a gap in the Maasai community politics that will be hard to fill.
Governor Tunai said the death of the former Heritage Minister was a blow to the Maasai community and the country as whole.
“We used to consult Mzee over leadership issues and the history of the community. It is very painful to lose him,’ said Mr Tunai.
Residents who spoke to the Nation led by Maasai Council of Elders chairman Kasaine Ole Esho described him as a second liberation hero for the Maasai land rights, a hard worker and a man with strength of character who never shied away from speaking his mind.
“The community is in deep loss. We are plunged into a quagmire on issues to do with protection of Maasai land, the Mau forest, and unity and political stability of the county which Ntimama championed,” said Mr Esho.
A family source said the politician travelled to his Olchoro home two days ago as he prepared to attend a fundraising event that was to be held Saturday.
The function was to be presided over by Narok Senate aspirant Andrew ole Sunkuli and Ntimama was expected to endorse him for the 2017 elections.
Former Transport Licensing Board chairman Hassan ole Kamwaro said he had talked to Ntimama on Thursday evening hours before he died.
“I was shocked to learn of the death of Ntimama because he just called me on Thursday at around 5pm and he was jovial when we talked,” he said.
For four decades Mr Ntimama strode Maasailand like a colossus championing the rights of the community.
The veteran politician, who became the self-styled spokesman of the community, served 15 years as the chairman of the powerful Narok County Council and 25 years as an MP and Cabinet minister in various capacities.
‘LIE LOW LIKE AN ENVELOPE’
In the 1990s, Ntimama was blamed for orchestrating attacks against non-Maasai’s in Narok.
The violence was the subject of the Akiwumi Commission of Inquiry into the 1992 ethnic clashes which led to the uprooting of thousands of the Kikuyu people from parts of Rift Valley.
Mr Ntimama notably served in the Local Government ministry and is remembered for telling the Kikuyu to “lie low like an envelope”, a phrase he denied using.
He had an on and off relationship with retired President Daniel Moi with the latter detaining him at some point in 1982 in Nakuru Town.
Mr Ntimama supported Opposition leader Raila Odinga in the last elections but recently led leaders from the Maasai community to State House where they met President Uhuru Kenyatta and promised to join the yet to be launched Jubilee Party.
He is said to have educated himself and has one of the biggest home libraries in Kenya.