By Ben Leshau
Anytime the Maasai Mau forest conservation is mentioned, the name of the Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina cannot miss to pop up.
Before 2012,when he announced his interest in vying for the Narok gubernatorial seat, very little was known about him.
Ole Kina,42,the tall-towering man with brown complexion and donning his trade mark afro-hair style has lately come out strongly in fighting for the conservation of the Mau forest which is at the epicenter of the Maasai community political hotbed.
Two months ago,Senator Ledama led a group of Maasai politicians in issuing a 14-day ultimatum to the government to embark on phase two of the Mau evictions targeting about 40,000 ‘illegal’ settlers.
Ledama threatened that should the government fail to evict them,he shall mobilize his tribesmen to flush the settlers who are mainly from the Kipsigis community from the forest.
His combative,radical style of politics has however won him admiration and criticism in equal measure from different quarters with those in his support viewing him as an emerging force in the Maasai politics.
Bob Maren,former Ololung’a MCA who now works as Ledama’s personal assistant describes him as a true fighter of the Maasai community rights and able to fit into the big boots of the late Maa spokesman William ole Ntimama.
“I think so far,Ledama is one of the politicians who have fiercely come out to fight for the Mau conservation.This is the kind of man the community needs going forward,”said Maren.
His sentiments recently landed him in hot soup as he received a tongue-lashing from leaders from Kalenjin community who have accused him of inciting people leading to ethnic violence witnessed in Narok South and Olposimoru area involving the two communities.
A fortnight ago, Ledama was summoned to appear before the area security committee over his recent inflammatory statements against a rival community.
Ledama is not new in controversial politics.
Exactly a year after Narok Governor Samuel Tunai was elected to office,Ledama who had also contested and lost to him (Tunai) launched an anti-corruption campaign against the devolved government.
He was later to join a group of politicians namely Stephen Ntutu (Senator), Patrick Ntutu (Narok West), Korei Lemein (Narok South), and Johana Ngeno (Emurrua Dikirr MP) in holding the mega demonstration against Governor Tunai over alleged corruption in 2015.
They were later arrested and bundled into a vehicle and booked at Muthaiga police station and when they came out they refererred themselves as the ‘Muthaiga Five’.
Courtesy of their criticism, Governor Tunai appeared before Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC)and Senate Finance Committee and was given a clean bill of health.
In 2017, Kina changed his earlier stand of wanting the gubernatorial position and opted for Senatorial seat on an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party ticket.
Ledama emerged the winner with 122,502 votes against his rivals Nkoidila Lankas (Jubilee) who managed 82,180 while NVP’s Albert Kiplang’at 72,632 and Independent Thomas Maitai who garnered 3,634.
According to his critics, Ledama is accused of using the Maasai Mau evictions to fight for his political survival after realizing that he will not make it to retain his seat as long as the Kipsigis community were still in Narok.
“Ledama realized that he was ‘dying’ politically and the recent Mau forest evictions seem to have given him a political lifeline.In the last election,if the NVP candidate who is from Kipsigis had not split the votes by taking 72,000 Ledama could never had made it,”says Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot.
He alleges that Ledama knows pretty well that Jubilee will not make a mistake of dividing the votes thus Ledama has sensed defeat and that’s the reason he wants members of the Kipsigis community thrown out before 2022.
Recently,Ledma hired an aircraft where he did aerial seeding at Kosia and Nkoben parts of the Maasai Mau forest where he purportedly cast over 20 million seedlings in a bid to save the forest a move that was equally criticized.
“As far as Iam concerned,the responsibility of planting trees lies with the government and its agencies such as Kenya Forest Services(KFS)and not an individual,”said Belgut MP Nelson Koech.
Last week the Senator who is now flying in a chopper travelled to South Africa in a bid to find the best fence for the Mau forest.
When he posted details about the journey in his social-media facebook,he received both a backlash and praise with the critics accusing him of using the Mau issue to extort funds from unsuspecting foreign donors.
In his own words,Ledama maintains that his fight for the Mau forest conservation was genuine and was not about politics as some people portray him.
“For the survival of tourism at the world-famous Masai Mara Game Reserve,Mara River and other rivers across the region,conservation of the Mau forest should be unstoppable.People must move out of the forest,”said Ledama.
Born and raised at Oloombokishi village in Narok North Sub County, Ledama attended Olesankale Primary School and joined Narok High School in the mid-1990s.
After graduating from high school in 1994, he was employed as an assistant producer for Reuters African journal, a weekly news magazine.
In 1995, he raised additional money through a funds drive and attended college in the United States of America.
Ole Kina studied political science at the University of Massachusetts Boston and later studied English communication at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.
He returned home in 1999 with a vision of changing the society’s view on education where he founded Maasai Education Discovery (MED).
According to Ole Kina, he is the first Maasai man to travel to United States of America to solicit funds to promote girl-child education.
In 2006, Kina installed wireless network in his resource centre after securing a US$500,000 equipment grant from Cisco Systems International.
In the same year, he established an online investment called www.kenyashares.com to enable Kenyans living in the diaspora to invest in their motherland through the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE).
Kina has acted as a development consultant to the former Town Council where he helped in promoting partnership between private entities in the USA and the then Narok Town Council.
In May 2009, Kina rolled out a nationwide online and physical library system in Kenya: http//www.library.or.ke to help improve access to books and information nationwide.
He is the Chief Executive Officer of a local vernacular radio station dubbed Sidai FM that is based in Narok Town and broadcasts in Maa Language.
He is married to one wife and together have beena blessed with three children.
Meanwhile, controversial Senator Ledama ole Kina has distanced himself from the alleged inflammatory statements terming them as propaganda aimed at tarnishing his name.
Senator Ledama who appeared before the county top security led by area County Commissioner George Natembeya,County Police Commander Thomas Ngeiywa and County Criminal Investigations Officer (CCIO) Zachary Kariuki recently was non committal over the motive of the said hate speech.
“I have come here to express myself over the alleged sentiments.The videos of me purportedly inciting people was extremely edited to benefit certain malicious interests to silence me,”said the Senator.
The outspoken legislator has defended his utterances saying that Article 96 of the constitution mandates him as a Senator to champion for the interests of his people and that of the county.
Area County Commissioner Mr Natembeya however revealed that among the agreements they made with the Senator included keeping off the Maasai Mau forest issue together with other politicians and instead leave the job to the national government.
Senator Ledama had however refuted having received warning from the National Cohesion and Integration Commission(NCIC) over the alleged inflammatory statements saying the commission had no capacity to warn him.