By Obegi Malack
The story of Anthony Keen, son of former outspoken politician and government critic John Keen, who dumped the job of bank manager to delve into sand transport business is inspiring.
The businessman, whose late father valiantly defended Maasai community land rights, is a self-made entrepreneur who never relied on family fortunes to develop his business empire.
His father was a billionaire, who owned Namanga River Hotel and the famous state of the art lodge, Maasai Lodge which opened in 1973, but he chose not to ride on his riches.
Anthony who has business interests in Ongata Rongai and Namanga rose from a truck owner to become one of the most successful businessmen in Kajiado.
The 56-year-old studied at Pune University, India where he attained his Masters Degree in Commerce, then worked in the Ministry of Finance as an auditor and later at Kenya Commercial Bank where he rose from a junior officer to manager.
He later resigned bought a truck to venture into sand business, employed himself as the lorry driver to ferry the sand from Mashuru to Namanga for sale.
“I wanted to open my own business and to be independent, so I resigned and received some small support from my father. “ says Keen.
He describes his late father as a strict person who ensured that all children from his four wives were educated to be self-dependent.
The father studied at Alliance High School in 1940s and later joined the British Army regiment in Kenya, before joining the Legislative Council (LEGICO).
He together with the likes of Tom Mboya, Masinde Mulliro, Daniel arap Moi, Oginga Odinga and Ronald Ngala among other attended the second Lancaster House Conference in London to negotiate for Kenya’s independence.
After resigning supplying sand to real estate developers in Namanga and also opened a hardware shop in the border town.
“Most of my friends used to ask me why I was working day and night without rest yet my father was a rich man,” he says.
As his business grew, the younger Keen opened a construction firm to supply building materials and to hire out construction machinery.
He is always at the site mixing freely with his staff, which makes it easy to identify and fix problems them immediately.
The man who has been in business for the last 27years tried his hand in politics in 2012, when he contested for the Kajiado North parliamentary seat but lost to former area MP Moses Sakuda.
“My opponents rode on the political and financial support of party leaders like former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta,” says Keen.
He says the Maasai community now lacks a strong leader after the death of his father in 2016 and late William Ole Ntimama.
“We are going to have a spokesman soon. Plans are underway for the community to speak with one voice, because we need someone to fight for our rights,” he says.
He regrets that the current leadership has divided the community along clan and age set lines, shamelessly using cultural events to fight political battles.
Anthony was cagey when he was asked about his plans for the 2022 parliamentary elections saying, “time will come when we will talk about vying for leadership position.”
The businessman has over time engaged in community work by donating food and water during drought.
He is now looking forward to advancing the John Keen legacy because his father supported education and founded Masai Technical Training Institute.
He also donated 300 acres of his personal land to the Kenya Wildlife Service in 2005, a reserve named after his daughter.
After independence, the late Keen at one time threatened to resign if the Maasais did not wear long trousers, enroll in schools and stop selling their land.
Among other charity work he supports include buying equipment for local football clubs, churches, the construction of chief office on his land, grading roads for free and donating a patrol land rover to Ongata Rongai police station.
He also regrets the ongoing wrangles between the executive and legislature in Kajiado County, saying it will negatively impact on development.
He asked leaders to emulate the spirit of the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Odinga, but asked the two leaders to ensure that corrupt leaders are jailed and all loopholes must be sealed
He also challenged the Maa community to educate their children and raise quality livestock to increase profitability.