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This man Dr Boni Khalwale: Public defender or rebel?

Thursday November 14 2019

Boni Khalwale

Dr Boni Khalwale is a politician who has captured the Kenyan political psyche in recent times. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

MARY WANGARI
By MARY WANGARI
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It is either he has a knack for controversy or controversy is just fond of him.

But if there is one politician who has captured the Kenyan political psyche in recent times, it’s one Dr Boni Khalwale.

Known as the bull fighter due to his love for famed Luhya sport, his energy and zeal is comparable to none.

Not to be forgotten is his unique dancing style which has earned him the nickname ‘one-legged dancer’.

His proverbial rise from grass to grace to emerge one of the most formidable forces in Kenyan politics has greatly endeared him to common mwananchi.

It is this perception of identifying with the masses that has seen him christened ‘Boni Mtetezi’, a title which he proudly wears like a badge of honour on his official Twitter handle.

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Ford Kenya deputy party leader Boni Khalwale
Ford Kenya deputy party leader Boni Khalwale escapes police arrest on a bodaboda on the streets of Kakamega Town on October 2, 2017 during an anti-IEBC demonstration. FILE PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

DETHRONING MOI

He is a self-styled reformist who is ambitious, shrewd, liberal, independent minded and perhaps a daredevil who does not shy away from issues irrespective of how uncomfortable or embarrassing they may be.

Khalwale is a hard nut to crack.

While some view him as a defender of the plight of the downtrodden, there are those who see him as a rebel without cause.

For the 59-year-old medical doctor, political theatrics started when he was 22.

The young Khalwale joined the 1982 coup to dethrone president Daniel arap Moi.

At the time, he had just joined University of Nairobi as a first year student.

“I can’t help but laugh when I think about it today. I never even thought about the danger I was exposing myself to,” said a reminisced Khalwale in an interview with a local publication.

Police officers arrest Senator Boni Khalwale
Police officers arrest Senator Boni Khalwale during an anti-IEBC demonstration in Kakamega on May 23, 2016. FILE PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

'KIMUNYA MUST GO'

But in a quick rejoinder, he declared that he would do it all over again if he believed it was for the best interest of the nation.

But it was not until 20 years later when the former medical officer, who served as a doctor in Kakamega and Mombasa, made his maiden entry into politics in 2002.

He ruffled feathers while serving as the Parliamentary Accounts Committee chairman in the 10th Parliament in Kenya when he led a vote of no confidence against high profile leaders in the Cabinet, including Amos Kimunya.

Maybe it is his unorthodox ways of tackling issues that have seen the former Kakamega gubernatorial aspirant walk a lonely path in the murky waters of politics since he joined in 2002.

Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale (centre) takes
Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale (centre) takes part in a demonstration against insecurity on November 25, 2014 in Nairobi. It is this perception He is christened ‘Boni Mtetezi’ for identifying with the masses. PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

NO SHAME

The former Ikolomani MP attracted laughter and disdain online in equal measure when he was captured on camera engaging in a stone-throwing match during the recently concluded Kibra by-election.

Khalwale was in Kibra to protect the votes of Jubilee Party candidate McDonald Mariga.

In a clip that was widely shared online, the former senator was captured at DC grounds hurling rocks at a rival group that was baying for his blood.

This was moments after he had been seen fleeing when rowdy youths engaged him at Mashimoni area.

Undoubtedly, much to Khalwale’s chagrin, Orange Democratic Movement’s candidate Imran Okoth emerged victorious and Mariga readily conceded defeat soon after, and even went ahead to call his competitor to congratulate him on his win.

Former Senator Boni Khalwale carries stones to
Former Senator Boni Khalwale carries stones to defend himself as rival groups engaged each other in running battles at DC grounds in Kibera on November 7, 2019 during Kibra by-election. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

However, those who thought the Ikolomani bull fighter would bury his head in shame and self-pity after he was exposed engaging in poll violence were in for a rude shock days later.

In a blistering attack televised on a national TV station, Khalwale sought to defend his outrageous actions.

“Never in the culture of a Luhya man can you allow an uncircumcised boy to challenge you and you run away,” he said on NTV.

He sought to justify his bad manners, saying he acted in self defence.

Kakamega senator Boni Khalwale is saluted by
Kakamega senator Boni Khalwale is saluted by circumcised initiates of Kabras in Malava constituency on December 26, 2014. FILE PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

  • TOUGH CHILDHOOD

The fourth born in a family of 10, Khalwale rose from a humble beginning.

The politician, whose name loosely translates to a ‘sick little man’, was born nearly 60 years ago to a peasant family in Kakamega County.

His mother, who Khalwale fondly refers as an industrialist, used to brew traditional alcohol, chang’aa, to put food on the table.

The firebrand politician is so proud of his origin and cultural heritage, which is evident on his profile where he proudly refers to himself as son of a traditional industrialist and a cultural icon.

A photo and bio of former Kakamega senator Boni
A photo and bio of former Kakamega senator Boni Khalwale on his Twitter profile. PHOTO | NMG

  • EDUCATION

Khalwale’s quest for a degree in medicine started in 1967 in Malinya Primary School where he sat for his Certificate of Primary Education (CPE).

He proceeded for his East African Certificate of Education (EACE) in Musingu High School and later joined Kakamega High School, where he wrote his Kenya Advanced Certificate of Education (KACE).

In 1981, he was admitted to the University of Nairobi for his undergraduate degree in medicine.

  • FAMILY

Khalwale is a proud polygamist, a fact he never shies away from.

In past interviews, the former medical officer revealed that he has two wives— Adelaide and Josephine.

He is blessed with seven children.

His first wife, Adelaide, succumbed to cervical cancer in October 5, 2019 and a distraught Khalwale took to social media to share his grief.

Undoubtedly, the death was devastating to the politician who barely a year ago had evoked admiration on social media when he showered praises on his late wife for her academic prowess.

  • POLITICS

Khalwale ventured into politics in 2002.

Through Narc party ticket, he clinched the Ikolomani MP seat. He went on to retain the seat in 2007 but this time on New Ford Kenya ticket.

He also had a stint as an Assistant Minister of East African Community for one year.

However, his 2007 election was later nullified in February 2011.

That did not deter the relentless Khalwale who beat the odds to reclaim his seat in May the same year, in a hotly contested by-election.

His landmark win against his rival from ODM, which was dominant in the region, attracted leaders from various parts of the country.

Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale (right) performs
Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale (right) performs his dance style that has earned him the nickname ‘one-legged dancer’ with Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula at Muliro gardens in Kakamega on April 2, 2016. FILE PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

BAD BLOOD

In 2012, he vied for the senatorial position in Kakamega on UDF party ticket and easily captured it after flooring his ‘billionaire’ opponent Cyrus Jirongo.

His tenure as a senator was marred by bad blood between him and the party that sponsored him to Parliament.

Constant wrangles were witnessed between Dr Khalwale and UDF leader Musalia Mudavadi, who accused the senator of using the party to advance his selfish agenda.

Senator of Kakamega Boni Khalwale led by his
Senator of Kakamega Boni Khalwale led by his bull Pogba Malinya and escorted by supporters to present his papers to IEBC at Kakamega National School on June 1, 2017 for the gubernatorial seat. FILE PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

CHOCKED

Not one to settle for less, the self-proclaimed activist seemed to have bitten more than he could chew in 2016, when he declared publicly his intention to contest for the gubernatorial seat in Kakamega.

He seemed to have underestimated the power of his opponent Wycliffe Oparanya, who was riding on his track record in the first term, and chocked.

And while he has reaped a mixed bag in his endless political manoeuvres, the ‘wandering wanderer’ seems determined to keep moving.

Today, Khalwale is constantly kowtowing to Deputy President William Ruto and his faction of the ruling Jubilee Party.

Deputy President William Ruto (right) puts a
Deputy President William Ruto (right) puts a cap on Boni Khalwale as the former Kakamega Senator defected to Jubilee Party when the latter hosted the DP at his home in Kakamega on May 17, 2019. PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

He has hosted Dr Ruto in Kakamega and seems to be one of the DP’s point men in western Kenya as the self-declared ‘hustler’ eyes the presidency in 2022.

From the look of things, the future is full of both possibilities and impossibilities for the Kibra rock man and famed Ikolomani bull fighter.