A sombre mood engulfed little-known Kabimoi village in Eldama Ravine Saturday following the death of Jonathan Moi, the eldest son of former president Daniel arap Moi.
When the Nation arrived at his palatial home at noon, workers were busy erecting tents and arranging seats for mourners. A water bowser was also sprinkling water at the compound.
A condolence book was placed in front of the tent as mourners streaming in signed it one by one. They eulogised Jonathan as a generous man who was loved by many.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga were among leaders who sent condolences.
Jonathan lived a quiet life as a farmer but was famous his exploits as a rally driver. He also hit media headlines after questions emerged over his alleged role in the murder of a British tourist and also during his unsuccessful bid for political office.
On Saturday, at Kabimoi where Jonathan — who was popularly known as JT — made many stopovers on his way home, many described his death as big loss to the community.
Mr William Sawe, who is a former Youth for Kanu’92 (YK ’92) representative for Lembus and worked closely with Jonathan during an unsuccessful attempt to capture the Eldama Ravine parliamentary seat in 2002, described him as a “great friend and very generous person.”
On Sunday morning, family and friends thronged the Lee Funeral Home in Nairobi where his body was taken. Some visitors broke down while others were huddled in groups conversing in low tones. The family said the media would be briefed comprehensively later.
Jonathan, 64, was admitted to Nairobi Hospital three weeks ago and diagnosed with cancer, according to a family source. The family was planning to fly him out for advanced treatment when he passed away at Mediheal Hospital in Nakuru.
Former Kabimoi nominated civic leader Ms Selina Suge said Jonathan was generous to farmers and herders in the region.
Baringo Senator, Gideon Moi eulogised his elder brother as a “selfless family man, amiable, social and down-to-earth and industrious human being,” through a public statement.
“Jonathan will be remembered for his daring exploits in the racing tracks, in muddy and dusty tracks, during this time of Easter,” he said and asked the public to allow the family to mourn privately.
Jonathan won the 1997 Overall Kenya National Rally Championship title with his brother-in-law Ibrahim Choge, who has since died, in a Toyota Celica GT4 at the peak of his rallying career.
He started racing in safari rally in 1986 — reportedly against the wishes of his father — and retired in 1997 having won over 800 trophies including being the Africa rally champion.
Mr Mustapha Hamisi said whenever Jonathan was at his Kabimoi home, the trading centre came alive and the residents noticed his presence as he would make a stopover the trading centre.
Ms Catherine Njeri who works in a salon at Kabimoi said she first heard of Mr Toroitich when he was a rally driver.
Mr Joel Kibe, who has lived here since 1967, said that he played football with JT during his youthful years.
“I knew him as a team player and a jovial person whom we played football with. He was easy going and interacted with everyone,” he said.
Nakuru governor Lee Kinyanjui in his message of condolences said Mr Toroitich was a great sportsman."He was one of Kenya's leading rally drivers, and was also a farmer," said Mr Kinyanjui
Reached for comment, the deceased’s ex-wife, Beatrice Mulwa, with whom they had two children, said: “I can’t talk about him now. You need to give us time.” She is a niece of former Cabinet Minister Nyiva Mwenda.
Whereas he has been eulogised as a sportsman and genial “happy-go-lucky guy”, as his friend former MP and businessman Cyrus Jirongo described him, he died with question marks over the mysterious murder of Julie Ward, a young British tourist, more than 30 years ago.
Writing in the Nairobi Law Monthly in 2012, Mr John Ward accused Jonathan of murdering his daughter, who disappeared in the Maasai Mara National Game Reserve in September 1988 while on holiday.
Reports on the state of her remains pointed to two theories: either she was mauled by wild animals — considering that she had been left alone in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve after a jeep which she was using for a game drive with Glen Burns broke down — or she had been murdered.
“I am totally shocked to hear this," Jonathan told the Star at the time. "I had no relationship with the said lady and I didn’t even know her. I never did such a thing and it has never crossed my mind to do it.”
In his 1998 biography The Making of an African Statesman, written by British author Andrew Morton, Moi said he has had little joy from his family. He feels disappointed and let down by it.
“He is quite a lonely man although always surrounded by people,” is the way a friend who has known him since his days as a teacher puts it,” wrote Mr Morton.
When Mr Moi divorced his wife Helenna in 1974, most of their children gravitated towards their father, but of the boys, Jonathan was close to his mother.
In 2002 and 2007, he tried his luck in politics, perhaps hoping to ride on his famous name to clinch the Eldama Ravine parliamentary seat, but came a cropper on both occasions.
He attended Nairobi School for his secondary education and holds a Bachelor of Science (Agriculture) from the University of Delaware in the United States.