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From pastures to the office

Former West Pokot deputy governor Titus Lotee wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Poverty and insecurity in his childhood fuelled his passion for community work as he shares his journey with Wangui Githugo

Titus Lotee leans back on his executive chair. His phone rings and he goes ahead to balance the receiver on one hand as he jots down something with his other hand with ease. As the CEO of the National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF), his office at Nairobi’s Teleposta Towers is abuzz of activity. The organisation, which falls under the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs among other things promotes economic empowerment activities of women, youth and People Living with Disabilities through provision of funds for table banking, saccos’ activities and enterprise development.

Humble beginning

This picture is a universe away from the kind of life he led growing up in West Pokot. Born and raised 42 years ago, in a pastoral community, insecurity, crashes and poverty characterised his childhood. “I wore shoes for the first time in high school. Walking barefooted was nothing out of the ordinary. However, it was the insecurity that people were most concerned about. Sounds of gunshots were the order of the day. It is for this reason that I never joined a nursery school and had to be enrolled directly to Class One without any basic education. In fact, I only became good at writing in Class Three,” he recalls.

Even after he passed his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education and was offered a chance to join Starehe Boys centre, he has to give up his school of choice owing to financial constraints. He, therefore, joined Kacheliba Mixed Secondary School, West Pokot. But his unwavering determination to better his life kept him focused. And this made him be among the less than two per cent of students in the county at his time who transitioned to university despite being taught by his primary school teachers in secondary school. After high school, he joined Moi University for a Bachelors Degree in Economics.

Interestingly, when Lotee graduated in 1998, he retreated to his home, teaching in high schools in West Pokot due to shortage of teachers. He taught Mathematics and Physics for four years voluntarily before he set up a Non-Governmental Organisation.

Owing to a lot of inter border fights and insecurity issues, Lotee started the Disability Awareness Mission, which attracted a number of people living with disabilities in the region. “I’m passionate about voluntary work, affirmative action and human rights. When I started this organisation, six international donors believed in my vision and started supporting my work in West Pokot,” says Lotee.

Between 2003 and 2007, ActionAid, an anti-poverty agency, contracted him to do an anti-FGM project. This was a challenging task for him considering female genital mutilation is deeply rooted in the community’s beliefs and practices.

In 2007, he landed a scholarship and had to leave for the United States for his Masters Degree in Conflict Coexistence. “It is after this development that people from West Pokot urged me to vie for a political seat. But I turned down the offer and opted to equip myself with knowledge first,” the former deputy governor says.

After acquiring his masters’ degree, Lotee worked in West Africa for Coexistence International (CI). CI creates resources for policymakers, practitioners, advocates, organisations and networks promoting coexistence, or positioned to promote coexistence, at the local, national and international levels. He also had a short stint at a British Company as a governance programme officer for East Africa before former West Pokot Governor Simon Kachapin, approached him to be his running mate in 2013.

Task ahead

And about four months ago, he was appointed NGAAF CEO. “This is one of the best positions I have held so far, because I get to serve the marginalised nationally. In fact, the deputy governor position is irrelevant and should be scrapped from the constitution,” says Lotee.

Though he just finished his 100 days at NGAAF, Lotee says he is determined to pull more marginalised people to benefit from the fund. “Unlike other affirmative action funds including Uwezo Fund and Women Enterprise Fund, NGAAF operates like the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), which has different committees of coordinators in each county,” he explains.

The fund, with a seed capital of Sh2 billion, was factored in the 2016/17 budget at the time when the National Assembly denied senators Sh1 billion for monitoring and evaluating the performance of county governments.

The young CEO who starts his day early in the morning and ends it late says his young family holds him together when the pressure is too much, especially from travelling and some unplanned schedules that crop up every time.

NGAAF being on its second year of implementation and the staff still learning on the job, Lotee has a lot to prove that it can actually change lives by the end of his tenure.

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