Winstone Chiseremi @Wchiseremi
He is as wealthy as he is controversial. He is 83-years old. One of the richest men in the Rift Valley region, he is abrasive, combative and does not shy away from confrontation. But it is the well-publicised divorce of two of Jackson Kibor’s wives that have shone the most limelight on the aging billionaire.
Just after Eldoret chief magistrate Charles Obulutsa granted his prayer to divorce his second wife of 51 years Josephine Jepkoech last year, a jubilant Kibor vowed to attend her burial as his neighbour and not former wife in the event she dies before him.
“I will allocate her 10 acres of land on humanitarian grounds and build for her a house on the farthest end of my 800-acre Kipkabus land in Ainabkoi constituency,” he said outside the law court after the judgment. Jepkoech has since appealed the divorce.
Now, the controversial politician has moved back to court seeking to divorce his third wife, Naomi Jeptoo. Both her and Josephine have pointed an accusing finger for the family discord to their youngest co-wife, Eunita.
“We are not opposed to Mzee’s marriage to Eunita as his fourth wife but she has been saying unkind words to me and even sending me offensive text messages on my phone just to provoke me,” said Josephine. “Since Mzee married his fourth wife, life has really changed for worse and we have never known peace despite not interfering with his new marriage at all,” she added.
Naomi, on the other hand says she has left everything to God over the latest attempt by her husband to divorce her on grounds of abandoning him, cruelty and plotting to kill him. “Mzee has of late started to show some weird characters against his wives and children but we pray that God will change him to become a good person as he used to be during the good old days,” she said.
Eunita, who wedded the tycoon in 2002 and with whom they have five children, however, declined to comment on the allegations that she is manipulating the veteran politician against the rest of the family.
“I am not willing to talk to you now about those issues you are asking me but will call back when I am ready,” she says. Altercations and disputes are not new to the influential farmer.
During his active political life in the 80s and late 90s, he invited the wrath of then ruling party Kanu when he challenged president Daniel Moi to name a heir ahead of his retirement.
It was a suicidal move that irked the party’s powerful disciplinary committee, then chaired by late former Karachuonyo MP Okiki Amayo.
The blatant show of brevity not only cost him the Uasin Gishu Kanu branch chairmanship but also earned him an expulsion from the party when he refused to back down.
While most of his age mates will be dispensing wisdom as they sooth old-age joint aches with traditional brews under some village tree, Kibor is still all over, making headlines —mostly for not-so-enviable reasons. Two years ago, the self-made billionaire caused a stir in Eldoret town when he sawed off a county council clamp on his Sh12 million Lexus over a Sh100 parking fee.
“The attendants are disrespectful. How can they clamp a car belonging to an old man yet my status is similar to that of Governor Jackson Mandago? They have forgotten that I was once a County Council chairman and deserve respect,” he was quoted in media as having said before promising to buy a bigger hacksaw incase the need for it arose again in future.
A year later in March of 2017, he was making news again after he was arrested and his gun confiscated over allegations of attempting to shoot his son. Ezekiel Kibor said he escaped death by a whisker after his father aimed his pistol at him when found him ploughing on a disputed 200-acre land at Kebenes village, part of Mzee Kibor’s 3,500-acre estate. But Kibor refuted the claims saying his sons attacked him with machetes after he found them ploughing part of his vast land without his consent.
“I only took out the gun to scare my sons who were armed with machetes and rungus and wanted to attack me after I found them ploughing a section of my land without my permission,” he said. Shortly after, Eldoret police had to forcibly remove four steel spikes the octogenarian had welded on his favourite off-roader “to run after invaders of my farms because they (police) took away my gun and my feet are now too old to catch up with them (invaders).”
Born in Kipkabus, Uasin Gishu County in 1934, he began doing casual jobs at a tanning facility in the area following the death of his mother. He left the tanning factory and joined another company as a driver in 1958, where he earned Sh75 per month.
Young Kibor dropped out of school in Standard Five after the management turned down his mode of paying school fees with firewood insisting on hard cash. Kibor says that the transported maize and potatoes across East Africa for some years before resigning after saving enough money to start his own business.
But baby luck smiled on him as well when he won an East African darts competition with a Sh35,000 cash prize and a car worth Sh17,600. “I borrowed Sh55,000 from the Land Bank and added to the Sh35,000 and bought my first land measuring 836 acres in Kipkabus where I grew maize and dairy farming.
My first wife Mary helped manage the farm and repaid the loan before I married Josephine in 1965, who also stayed on the same farm,” the old man says. Buoyed by this success, Kibor says he bought 1,543 acres in Kabenes area at Sh220,000 in 1969 before buying another 1,160 acres in Kitale that had 500 friesian cows at Sh1.5 million.
Not a man to look back, Kibor says he took another loan and bought another 357 acres of land in Moiben at Sh12 million. “You can clearly see that all my wealth was earned through the hard way. So how can I let somebody joke around with it? No way,” he says.