News Politics

After 20-years in Parliament, what next for Katoo?

Observers are keen to see whether Katoo will defend his current seat, vie for a higher position, or quit politics in the next general election

By Jonathan Teikan and Fredrique Ntele

In a country with a long history of dynasties, it is a common notion that one must come from a well-off family to rise to the coveted seat as of an MP. That, however, is not the case with Kajiado South MP Katoo ole Metito.

Katoo, a husband to one wife and a father of five, is widely believed to be Governor Joseph ole Lenku’s kingmaker, and has been in Parliament for close to 20 years, yet at one point he never imagined that he would become a politician.

After studying at Loitokitok Boys High School, Katoo enrolled at the Chiromo Campus of the University of Nairobi, where he pursued an undergraduate course in Physics.

Upon completion, he studied for Masters in Strategic Management, and is currently enrolled for a doctorate in Strategic Management in the same university. His thesis is based on strategies, characteristics, and challenges that affect the performance of political parties.

In his early 20s, the now renowned politician worked as a casual laborer in a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including the famous Abantu for Development, where he was contracted to work as a trainer of trainers.

At the NGO, he became involved in civic education and campaigns for good governance and gender issues. This early exposure catapulted him from obscurity into the world of great responsibility.

The late Geoffrey Parpai, who also happens to be his immediate predecessor, would later appoint Katoo into his strategic team, before promoting him to become his campaign manager.

In 2003, Parpai — whom his aides later came to know was ailing — died of cancer. He had spent almost seven months in local and overseas hospitals.

“On January 15, he was sworn in, and on the same night, he was flown out of the country for medication… funny enough, we never even suspected that he was sick,” recalls Katoo.

Following the MP’s demise, Parpai’s strategic team agreed to front one from their own number for the position.

As fate would have it, Katoo was selected, despite the fact that he was among the youngest in the team and was yet to marry.

“I remember the bashing I received from my competitors on account of my young age and the fact that I was unmarried,” he says.

Thanks to the goodwill of the team and Parpai’s supporters, Katoo became an MP at the age of 28 — the youngest legislator during the first term of former president Mwai Kibaki’s administration.

Subsequently, Kibaki appointed him Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

In 2007, the president again appointed him Assistant Minister for the Ministry of Regional Development, a position he held until 2012, when he was appointed Minister of Internal Security and Provisional Administration following the death of Prof George Saitoti.

Following the promulgation of the Kenya Constitution (2010), that effectively changed the structure of government and restricted Members of Parliament from being appointed Cabinet Secretaries, in 2013 Katoo was made the Chief Whip of the then majority party, The National Alliance.

In the current Parliament, the MP is Chairman of the Defense and Foreign Relations Committee.

Throughout his tenure, he has focused on issues of education, health, electricity, and infrastructure.

“Particularly, I have always paid more attention to the education sector in my constituency; I believe that quality education is key to sustainable development; for sustainability of our development projects, we need people with skills to manage them.”

When he came into office, he says, there were only 39 public primary schools in the entire constituency, which have now increased to 124.

“We only had four secondary public schools, now we have 22; we did not have a single teachers training college or medical training college, yet now we have a fully-fledged MTC at the Loitokitok District Hospital.”

Under his leadership, the constituency can brag of 14 dispensaries the MP has constructed from scratch, besides 42 boreholes which Katoo has financed using both the Community Development Fund and donor support.

His success in politics over the years, Katoo says, is due to the fact that, “As long as you can offer the services the people require, they will keep re-electing you.”

He added that his political slogan of “peace and development,” which he is confident that he has lived up to, has paid off.

A peaceful environment, he believes, is requisite for meaningful development.

Will he be defending his current seat, vying for a higher position, or quitting politics at the next general election? Katoo’s answer is guarded: “Let’s cross the bridge when we get there”.

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