Imran Okoth: The quiet man of the people who won Kibra's heart

Friday November 08 2019

Politician Imran Okoth, of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), celebrates his victory in the Kibra by-election with his supporters at the NCC Hall in Dagoretti, Nairobi, on November 8, 2019. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Long before Bernard Imran Okoth threw his hat into the ring to replace his late brother Ken as Kibra MP, he won the hearts of residents with his involvement in their lives, directly or otherwise.

His confirmation as the MP-elect following the mini poll on Thursday was the icing on a cake that had been in the oven for years - since his late brother Ken assumed leadership of the sprawling Nairobi constituency.

Imran, as he is popularly known by Kibra residents, is an introvert and a man of few words, who does not like hogging the headlines like the regular politician.

He is averse to too much publicity so very little is known of his private life.

“I cannot tell you much about his personal life as he is a man who likes keeping his life private. He does not like much exposure,” one of his nephews, who did not want to be named, told the Nation.



Most people believe Imran started working with Kibra residents three years ago but his first contact with the people dates back to 2012 when his younger brother put him in charge of the Children of Kibra Foundation.

“He was the project manager. He was the one overseeing all the projects that Ken had back home while abroad. He trusted him with all the donor funds he sent back home to run the foundation,” the nephew said.

“He has always been the quiet one in the family but very involved. They say behind every successful man is a woman, (but) behind the success of Ken was Imran. He is the only person he trusted back home."

As a testament to this, the MP-elect has always been brief in conversations and media briefings.


ODM politician Imran Okoth displays his certificate after winning the Kibra by-election, at the NCC Hall in Dagoretti on November 8, 2019, flanked by Ruaraka MP TJ Kajwang (L) and Suna East MP Junet Mohamed. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Imran was born in Kisumu Ndogo, Kibra, more than 40 years ago, and is the third born in a family of five.

The family’s birth order begins with a sister and then comes a brother named Bob who lives abroad, Imran, the late Ken and George.

The family moved to Makina and later to Karanja Estate, where Imran now lives with his family in a house next to Kibera Primary School.

He attended Olympic and Toi Primary Schools before joining a school in Dagoretti and then transferring to another in Kisumu.

In college, Imran studied four courses, including electrical engineering and book keeping.


The nephew pointed out that Imran is a staunch Muslim while his other family members are all Christians.

He decided to convert to Islam owing to his upbringing in Kibra where most of his friends were Nubians.

“He never left Kibra. He has spent his whole life there. He settled there and is married with children. The name Imran is not an alias. That became his name after he became a Muslim.”


ODM politician Imran Okoth celebrates his victory in the Kibra by-election with his supporters at the NCC Hall in Dagoretti, Nairobi, on November 8, 2019. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Family members say Imran’s star started to shine after he hearkened to his late brother’s call to take charge of the development projects he initiated.

Ken handed over as he had to leave the constituency to seek treatment abroad after being diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer.

This was a big ask as anyone who had interacted with the late Ken would tell you that fitting into the MP’s big shoes was tough.

“My brother Okoth was diagnosed around October 2017. I was the first person he told and in November 2017, he flew to the USA for treatment. I had to step up for a brother and take charge," Imran said during his brother's memorial.

This saw him become his late brother’s personal assistant, overseeing projects under the Kibra County Development Fund for three years until Ken's in July.

The responsibility therein thrust Imran into constant interaction with the residents, quickly endearing him to a people who praised his meticulousness.


When the time came for Orange Democratic Movement to carry out nominations for the Kibra mini poll, it was a public secret that the ticket was Imran's to lose. 

He triumphed over nine other aspirants in a landslide victory in September.

“People love him because of his transparent nature. Running the CDF also made him popular as the transparency and fairness in management of bursary funds made people take notice.

Residents had never witnessed this, not even during the reign of Raila Odinga, who is ODM leader.

“While running the projects, he never considered any family member for any tender. He was even mocked during campaigns for lack of money yet he managed millions,” the nephew said.


ODM leader Raila Odinga congratulates Bernard Imran Okoth at Capitol Hill Square in Nairobi on November 8, 2019, following his victory in the Kibra by-election. PHOTO | COURTESY


Imran was declared winner on Friday morning after garnering 24,636 votes to beat Jubilee’s McDonald Mariga, who conceded defeat when the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) figures from 40 out of 183 polling stations showed he was second.

"I thank God, my party leader Hon Raila Odinga, leaders who stood by me and Kibra voters. It is now evident money can't buy leadership. I will serve you diligently and reciprocate the support you have given me,” he said after the official announcement.

"I will start working immediately after I’m sworn-in. I request my opponents to support me in serving the people of Kibra. It is only through unity that Kibra will develop. I support the handshake since I am the first handshake MP," he added.

The handshake refers to the March 9, 2018 deal between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga that followed a protracted presidential election in 2017.

The agreement is centred around building bridges; spearheading national healing and reconciliation and ensuring countrywide unity, peace and development.