After the death, curfews and economic depression, Lamu residents look forward to a new dawn

Tags

, , ,

img_20161010_144525

 

Tawfiq Ahmed’s mornings are a reflection of the place he calls home. He doesn’t like to be rushed. He likes to be in control of his time. The chubby faced man feels like he has his own destiny in his hands and the lords of fate have nothing on him. But the past two years have sent his head on a spin. It seems that for those two years, he relinquished all control and his days were determined by other factors.

“Nyinyi mumetembea Lamu mumeona shida yoyote (Have you seen any problems in Lamu)?” he asks.

He likes to sit on an easy chair on kikoi draped cushions looking out towards the sea. “I spent more than a year without looking at my guest book. We were not getting any bookings,” he says. “We only started to get calls recently. We pray that such misfortune does not visit us again.”

Tawfiq’s life, like that of many other people in Lamu County, was affected by the 2014 Mpeketoni massacre. Official records put the death toll at more than 80. Witness accounts at the time said most victims were dragged from their houses in full view of their families and led to their deaths.

The aftermath of the orgy of violence hit hard. A dawn to dusk curfew that lasted almost a year was imposed. Livelihoods for a county that depends on trade on the mainland and tourism for the archipelago suffered.

And perhaps, for the first time in his life, Tawfiq admitted he is not in control of his fate. “We got calls on that day from friends outside the country asking us if Lamu was safe. We did not know what was happening,” he says.

News was slow to filter into Lamu. Bahari Beach House, the hotel that Tawfiq runs, has neither TV nor radio. There is an internet connection but who would want to be bogged down by the cares of the world transmitted in a virtual reality when confronted with the natural beauty that Lamu has to offer?

“The next calls I got and for the month that followed was only for cancellations. The next year was rough on us,” he says.

To cope, the hotelier, who has lived his whole life on Shela beach, had to look for an alternative means of income. “I am not a herder but I had to look for cows to rear,” he says.

But now, after the death, the curfews that stifled life and what looked like a looming economic depression, the island is rising again to claim its rightful place. “We are getting bookings now,” Nina Chauvez of the Moon Houses in Lamu says. “We are slowly getting back to where we were before the crisis set in.”

For Nina though, the crisis could and should have been prevented. “We sank that low because of an irresponsible media. All illustrations of the story in local and international media were of Lamu Island. This is a perception we have tried to fight for so long,” she says.

On October 1, 2011 at around 3am, an armed gang docked their speedboat on the white sandy beaches of Manda and stormed into the house French national Marie Dedieu and abducted her. The Kenyan government said the abductors were Al Shabaab militants. The kidnap came three weeks after a UK couple was attacked further north.

Two weeks after the abduction, Kenya waged war on the Al Shabaab, resulting in a drawn out guerilla war that snaked out of Somalia and into Kenya, bringing with it venom that threatened to eat away the peaceful existence of the island.

The repercussions of Kenya’s foray into Somalia were immense. On the mainland, fear was planted. “Many left and have never been back. Life has been different since then. Harder,” Irene Mutua, or Mama Joshua as her friends know her, says.

Many more residents left Mpeketoni after the 2014 massacre. On the night of the attack, her stall was razed to the ground. Since then, she has been unable to lift herself or her business up. But amidst the ash, some have started to make baby steps towards a return to normalcy.

Moving on has come at a price and Walid Ahmed Ali knows this too well. “Now if you stand up against anything, they call you Al Shabaab,” he says. Last year, Walid and a few of his friends from the Lamu Youth Council were arrested on allegations of having funded the massacres. He was later released without charge.

Walid believes a broader all-inclusive future awaits the residents. “We have hit the bottom. We have seen how it looks like and we don’t like it. We can only move forward from here,” he says.

Lamu residents believe that the scars from a difficult two years are fading, and that it is only a matter of time before she blossoms into her natural beauty once again.
And when this happens, maybe, just maybe, Tawfiq will start looking forward to controlling his fate once again.

At what cost development?

Tags

, , ,

img_20161009_173937

On the morning of August 22nd, Samia Omar woke up with a divided conscience. She spent the whole morning trying to reconcile the two sides into one. But by 2pm she had given up the fight and she submitted in her resignation as the Lamu County Trade, Tourism, Culture and Natural Resources Executive

“As County Executive for both investment and natural resources, my mandate and obligation to the public is conflicted between promoting investment in Lamu, and preserving the environment,” said Ms Omar. “Having read the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) of the Lamu Coal Power Plant, I am convinced that the project will have irreversible and profound impact on Lamu,” she said as she handed in her resignation letter.

For decades, Lamu County was known for its tourist attraction sites and its agriculture based businesses. But over the past three years, a lot more is being associated with it, key being a coal mining plant billed as a savior to Kenya’s energy needs.

Labelled by the Government as a Vision 2030 project, Lamu’s coal power plant is expected to produce 1,050 megawatts (MW) of electricity upon completion – a 50 per cent addition to the 2,200MW on the national electricity grid.

However, Lamu’s local community, leaders and environmental campaigners have united in opposition to the project, in what is slowly evolving into a fierce conflict between mega infrastructure and local community interests in a region caught Iin the dilemma of protecting its heritage while at the same time playing its part in nation building.

Amu Power, a consortium that includes local firms Gulf Energy and Centum, is spearheading the development of the Sh200 billion power plant, with the Investment and Power Construction Corporation of China charged with construction. Construction of the power plant on 869 acres in Kwasasi, 20 kilometres off Lamu town, was scheduled to begin last September.

Its owners have billed it as the first of its kind in the region. But as the plans to satisfy a huge power appetite continue full steam ahead, Lamu residents continue to share their reservations over the long term effect of the project. And they vow to do all they can to stop what they term as an intrusion into not only their lives, but the existence of future generations too.

“We have been against this project from the beginning. Coal is dirty energy and its effects are detrimental,” Ishaq Abubakar of the Lamu Youth Alliance says. “We are not anti-development but no one in the world has ventured into coal mining and faced no long term consequences.”

Ishaq says if the project starts the livelihoods of hundreds of fishermen who fish in the waters near the plant will be at stake.
“Plus the health problems as a result of the pollution will take its toll on the population,” he says.

Key among the issues raised by Ishaq is the inadequate public participation of residents on the project.

He says an Environmental Impact Assessment Report was submitted to NEMA on the 14th of July 2016 by Amu Power, the invitation of comments from the public was made on 29th July 2016, giving 30 days for comments – due by the 29th of August 2016.

A public hearing was held on the 26th of August 2016, contrary to the law which requires that it is held after comments are submitted (29th August) and in a place accessible by most affected people – it was held in an area inaccessible to most residents of Lamu, due to distance and costs.

As the custodian of the electorates’ wellbeing Lamu governor Issa Timammy need to ensure his people’s interest comes first.

“All over the world coal is a controversial source of energy. But the country has an energy shortfall and this project might go a long way in bridging it as long as the proper conditions are set for its production,” he said.

But residents say there can never be proper conditions coal mining.

“The project is being set up at the heartland of the community. And this will be sure death to the mangrove forest around the islands,” he says.

Ishaq also says the investors showed no practical way through which the local community will benefit.
Timammy however says if all s done according to plan, there will be job opportunities for Lamu residents.

“The only thing is that my people are choosy when it comes to employment opportunities. We should learn to take what is available. Plus it may also open up business opportunities for Lamu residents,” he says.

Lamu is a world heritage site for its flora and fauna and its ancient civilization. And as the world moves on towards green energy, why is coal a priority?

“We have an opportunity to harness wind power, solar or even get energy from the sea waves. But the national government has focused on coal. We need to make sure all steps are followed before production kicks off,” Timammy says.

Environmentalists argue the initial EIA Report the climate change impact that the coal plant will have in the areas micro climate and that this will be inconsistent with Kenya’s commitments in international law.

Kenya committed to reduce emissions by 30% by 2030 according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). They say this project will increase emissions significantly.

The dilemma that faced Lamu’s former executive on tourism, trade and environment has been magnified and has trickled down to the residents who are now choosing sides.

“You are either pro development or anti-development. There is no space for those concerned about the environment. That is why we have to keep speaking up,” Ishaq says.

For now, Lamu county holds on. The air remains pure and the mangrove forests reaches out to the sun. But for how long?

img_20161011_180353

Age old injustices at the heart of coast land problems

Tags

, ,

img_20161010_182145

Story originally published in the Standard on Sunday on October 23rd.

Joseph Baya Mketa remembers an incident that happened in his village when he was a small boy. And when he speaks about it, even in adult hood, his eyes tear up and veins pop out of his neck. One morning, friends and neighbours woke up to a gruesome scene.

A woman in their village had in the still of the night been stabbed severally in the back. She lay face first onto the loamy clay soil of her village. She was a new mother and the villagers immediately embarked on looking for her infant child as they waited for policemen to come and get the woman’s body from the crime scene.
After an hour of looking and with the whole village seemingly giving up on ever finding the baby, a cry pierced through the hot sun. It seemed to be coming from where the body lay. Curious, bystanders flipped the body over. The woman’s child, dusty, and sweating had latched on to her mother’s right breast. The left one had been chopped off.

“The fight for our land is represented in this death. Our ancestors, just like the dead mother did, will not forsake us and will keep us safe at the most difficult of times,” he says.
The difficult times for Baya and his Mijikenda clansmen have lasted longer than they had anticipated. For them, home continues to be elusive more 50 years after independence.

“Rais wetu Uhuru Kenyatta akizaliwa sisi tayari tulikua IDPs. Na mpaka leo hatujaruhusiwa kwenda nyumbani,” Baya says.

But theirs isn’t a unique plight. In fact, displacement of whole communities from large tracts of land within the former coast province goes back further than the most recent dislodgement of populations as a result of the Mpeketoni massacres. Further back than the 2012 violent evictions following clashes between the Pokomo and Orma. It goes back further to just after independence, when whole communities such as Baya’s were evicted from their ancestral homes again, as a result of violence. Bloody violence from what is officially known as the Shifta War.

Between 1963 and 1967, a secessionist conflict in Northern Kenya broke out. AT the heart of it was a desire by the inhabitants of Northern Kenya to secede to Somalia. This move was met by brutal force by law enforcement. Leading to the deaths of thousands and the uprooting of whole communities from their ancestral lands to concentration camps for what they termed as ‘safety reasons.’

The insecurity trickled south from Northern Kenya to parts of the coast and eventually to Baya’s village.
“We were moved to Witu from our village in Nyongoro. The policemen told us that that was the only place that they could keep us safe,” Baya says.

That was in 1964. They haven’t been back since.
For Baya and many others, the war was merely a smokescreen. A smokescreen to get them off their land and push them away.

“And this is what we will not accept,” Baya says. “We are known to be peaceful. But when pushed to the wall we will push back. But through legal ways.”

Now, quickly fading headstones of the graves of his forefathers lie within a private ranch. He and his people have become trespassers on what they say is rightfully theirs.

“All my people are here. Why do they want me to move out? Move away from the graves of my fathers and mothers,” Mketa says. Next to him, teenage girls pound maize using a motar and pestle.
Large tracts of land in Kenya’s coast are occupied by squatters and even larger ones are held by group or individually owned ranches. Ranches that indigenous populations blame for almost all the land wrongs in Lamu county. Wrongs they say the political class is unwilling to right.

Issa Timamy is a tall man. He walks upright but his shoulders are beginning to hunch around the edges. As the first governor of Lamu county, he has been tasked with the delicate matter of getting his people land. And at the same time balance the needs of the private sector amidst a flurry of big money infrastructure investment. His in tray contains part of the Lamu Port South Sudan Transport corridor project (LAPSET), a controversial coal plant, insecurity fears, a struggling tourism industry and a squatter problem.

“I asked for it. So I have to deal with all these things,” Governor Timamy says. “Our land issues may be historical but we have modern day grabbers who have taken advantage of our people to steal their land from them,” he says.
Since 2013, the Lamu county government has revoked illegal titles that covered over half a million acres of land.
“All these belonged to individuals with connections in Nairobi. Speculators would even without setting foot in the county hive off parts of government land and process title deeds for themselves. Then send law enforcement to evict the populations living on the land who for generations had not sought ownership documents,” Timammy says.

 

Fatuma Mzee Ali doesn’t know her true age. But she knows she has been in this world for ‘far too long.’
Severally, her home in Pangani Old Town, almost 20 kilometres from Witu town has been razed to the ground.
“Sasa tumekua kama kuku ndani ya maji,” she says. “Hatujui kuogelea na hatuna wakutuokoa.” She has seen successive evictions on the basis of insecurity and just like Baya, she was first evicted on the basis of the Shifta War.

Now history is repeating itself and her 35 year old granddaughter Asma Salim is living it.

“Pangani Old Town is an ancient town. Our forefathers came here from Tanzania. How is it that suddenly we are squatters? Where were the ranchers when our people came from Tanzania,” she asks.
Nothing about Pangani Old Town can speak of its illustrious past. In cact it looks like a new settlement. Bushes have just been cleared. Thickets burnt to create space for houses. But upon closer inspection, exposed concrete floors from an age past creep up from the ground.

“Every six months or so, they come and chase us away and burn our houses and all our belongings,” Asma says. “And every so often we return to our land.”
Area Chief Yahya Abaraba says 305 families have been living in the area since before independence.

Now, the land is claimed by Amu Ranch.

In the early 70s, Francis Njeru Chege and his family sighed in relief as a Kenya Army truck sputtered to a stop in the middle of nowhere. The journey had been treacherous, and as the party jumped off and beat the brown dust off themselves, he looked around and wondered how they could even call the bush next to him home.
More than 40 years after his arrival in Mpeketoni to settle in one of the first settlement schemes in the region, he has become a land owner. With several other individuals, he is a shareholder of Amu Ranch, that claims ownership of the areas around Pangani Old Town.

“We paid the government for that land,” Chege says. “The trouble is that at the time of the sales and leases, very few people were enlightened thus many were left out of the ownership schemes.”
He says many of those claiming ownership to various lands have already been given alternative areas to settle in.

“Families have been allocated land. But there seems to be a delay in processing the title deeds,” he says.
Governor Timamy has an explanation for this.

“There are too many competing interests on land matters in Lamu. Even the residents are listening to too many people. Now, almost every community with a claim to land here is in court. Effectively our hands are tied because even matters that would have been resolved amicable are now before court,” he says.

Nyongoro and Pangani residents, where Baya and Asmaa live respectively have pending matters before court.
“How do you now bring the ranch owners and the residents to the table? Because truth be told, some of these ranches have existed for a very long time. Longer than any of us have been alive,” Timammy says.
His official sea front residence is on a serene stretch of the Island between Lamu town and the exquisite tourist attractions of Shela beach. Further across, sits Manda Island. Also affected by land issues.

“Huku kumenyakuliwa tu na watu. Hatuna vyeti vya umiliki,” Swaleh Athman Guyo says. His father was part of the original 363 families settled on the island as IDPs also during the Shifta War.

“To date, we are squatters yet we have seen people come here recently and have their title deeds,” he adds.
The residents from Nyongoro, Pangani, Mokowe and even Lamu think they know why they are not getting what they say is rightfully theirs.

“Hii yote ni kwa sababu ya LAPSET. Kila mtu sasa atazama Lamu,” Twahir Khalif Aman or Kamanda wa Manda says. He says speculators are grabbing anything and everything on the county.

“Wananyakua mpaka kaburi za mama zetu,” he says.

The country is heading into an election year. For large parts of the coast, land ownership remains a thorny issue that will dominate campaign rhetoric and, according to others, an issue that has led to the loss of lives.

“Our young men have been killed agitating for their land rights. In 2014 four of our young men were killed. The murders were blamed on Al Shabab. But we keep asking ourselves how terrorists would call out their names one by one, cut their throats open and leave,” Baya says of the 2014 Poromoko and Majembeni attacks on 17 June 2014, a day after the Mpeketoni massacres.

Baya says those killed were key witnesses in ongoing land cases between his community and privately owned ranches.

For Lamu, competing interests from private developers, the national government and local communities will have to strike a balance.

A balance that will enable future generations live out of the shadow of bitterness as a result of landlessness. A bitterness passed down from generation to generation. A bitterness of displacement. A bitterness so personal to Baya, Asma and Twahir. A bitterness they hope will end with their generation.

|Pedo’s paradise|

abuse

 

Story originally ran in the Standard on Sunday on Jun 5 2016

Kenya’s Coast is famed for its white sandy beaches and sky blue waters. But underneath the glitz and glamour lies an ugliness of epic proportions. Every day, and repeatedly, children who can hardly tell their right hand from their left – male and female – suffer at the hands of those they trust the most. Children as young as five narrate harrowing details of sexual abuse at the hands of individuals they have entrusted their entire lives to.

In a cruel reversal of roles, individuals, who in an ideal world would give their all to protect children, sodomise and destroy the innocent souls; some of the adults turning against their own flesh and blood. The Standard on Sunday recorded testimonies of innocent children through their parents and social workers. Some tortured. Some secretly abused for years by their school teachers, madrassa tutors, fathers, mothers and even some errant members of the National Police Service.

In the sleepy village of Marereni in Kilifi, a family of four celebrated the arrival of their new son in muted tones. Unlike their three previous children, something was amiss with their last born. He didn’t cry at birth even after several slaps by the attending midwife. And as the years progressed, the child’s parents noticed their last born was different from the rest. For one he could not talk. Plus, he didn’t seem quite alright. But they did not seek any additional help and instead, chose to lock the boy in a room within their house. Rarely was he seen in public. When the boy turned twelve, his father told his wife that he had identified a centre that would cater for his extra needs and they were willing to take him.

One morning, after the child’s mother had left for the market, his father left home with his special needs son and told everyone that he was taking him to the centre. Nine months later, a neighbour walked into the family’s cow pen and stumbled onto a chilling scene. Tied on a post at the furthest end of the cow pen was the boy. Shriveled. Bleeding. And in tears. Ruptured at his rear from repeat assaults.

“We were called to the scene and had to rush the boy straight to hospital. He underwent emergency corrective surgery and is still on the path of recovery,” Cheupe Mohamed (not her real name) told The Standard on Sunday. This is just one of the cases under her watch. “This is not an entirely strange phenomenon in this part of the country. Those closest to the children more often than not are the ones who abuse them,” she says.

Joceline and Aisha know this too well. A few kilometres from Mtwapa is Mzambarauni village. Mzambarauni is a typical Swahili village of narrow allies with homes close together. Here, it is almost impossible to have a conversation without your neighbour listening in. The thin coral walls do not keep much inside the low roofed houses. When you make your way through the corridors, it is mandatory to smile and politely greet everyone you meet. It is customary. It is normal. But Mzambarauni too has some bit of the abnormal. Women spoke of their pain.

“Aisha’s husband is the eldest in the homestead. My husband is the second born. Our mother-in-law leaves nearby so our children used to visit their grandmother’s homestead often. One day I noticed my daughter had urinary incontinence,” Joceline says. Unknown to her, her brother-in -law had made a habit of molesting her 5-year-old. “He would gather all the children in his mother’s house and show them pornography then do whatever he wanted to do with them,” she says. Among the other children was Aisha’s.

At any particular time, the women say, their brother-in-law entertained no less than four children in the house. “We don’t know where he is now. He has fled. But once in a while we hear rumours of his sighting but he disappears before we can call the police,” Joceline says. Now, she and others like her who have seen their children go through abuse are not only policemen but also hope to be law enforcers; always on the lookout for the abusers.

“Shida kubwa hapa ni kua wanaoharibu watoto wetu wanafichwa. Hawalali kichakani. Wanalala kwa ndugu zao wanaowaficha,” she says. She not only carries anger and bitterness within her, but also betrayal. Her husband wants nothing to do with the defilement case she filed at Vipingo Police Station. “Yuasema nataka kufunga nduguye bila sababu…,” she says. Further north is Matandale, a village located off the main Mombasa- Malindi Highway. The only mode of transport from the main road is by boda boda for Sh100.

“But when it rains you can pay up to Sh300 because of the bad road. And also, crocodiles move in the rain water to the roads. So boda bodas charge you three times more because they say they are not only carrying you but protecting you from the crocodiles too,” Ven jokes. But behind her smile is a load of sadness. At her homestead, her 13-year old daughter cradles a one month old baby boy. The child’s father is on the run; hunted down by the State for child abuse. He was an instructor at a nearby Madrassa. “He lured me with money,” Ven’s daughter says in a barely audible voice. Her mother’s presence makes her uneasy. In her world she thinks the abuse was her fault. Or at least she thinks her mother blames her.

It is only after Ven leaves that her daughter opens up. But just. “Saa zingine alikua akinipata nikitoka shuleni anipa shilingi hamsini… saa zingine mia… hivo hivo tu mpaka akaniingiza kwake,” she says. Then the baby came. Then her life changed. Forever. She plans to go back to school and sit her KCPE. But only if she, at 14 years, gets a nanny for her son. What does she think of when she looks at her child? She smiles. The silence is awkward. She retreats into herself again perhaps fearing that the words that almost fall out of her lips would incriminate her. She doesn’t speak again. Free movies “Every month we get between seven to ten defilement cases. These are the ones that are impossible to hide,” Charo Tangai of Bombolulu says. “Most of the cases do not get to us. It is particularly worse when the victims are boys,” he says as he narrates an ordeal two brothers aged six and seven went through at the hands of a video hall owner.

“The man told the brothers he would give them some odd jobs to do instead of idling around the neighbourhood. But in place of money, he would give them an all access pass to the video den. Once they went in for the free movies, he’d drug them and sodomise them,” Charo says. “Luckily, the man is now behind bars.” Most of the time though, convictions are hard to come by. Often, money is offered to the family of the victim by the abuser’s family.

“This can be anything between Sh2,000 and Sh5,000 depending on either the negotiating skills of the abuser or the greed of the parent,” Charo says. “The broker is in many cases the area chief or village elder.” And at their time of need, the victims say help from law enforcement has been painfully pursued. “Sometimes I ask myself whether I should go to the police station daily to find out the status of my case or fend for my other children,” Aisha, whose 8 year old daughter was molested by her brother-in-law says.

“If I go to the police station every day to chase after the case, then my children will sleep hungry.” Also, she says if she pursues justice to the very end, the defiler’s people, who are also her husband’s people, and by marriage her people too, might ostracise her from her community. “Kisha niende wapi? Tutatupwa nje sisi zote, mpaka huyu aliyeharibiwa,” she sums up.

With these fears from some parents, a settlement plan that mocks the sanctity of life, some parts of Kenya’s beautiful Coast will continue to be playground for paedophiles.

The church is always late, always.

Tags

, ,

njoya

Kenya’s political space is currently dominated by acrimonious exchanges between the Government and Opposition, on the disbandment or reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). In this push and pull, the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) has invoked its constitutional right to picket, a mode of non-violence protest made popular by civil society as well as the church in the early 90s that led eventually to the collapse of the Kanu regime.

Just like during Kenya’s second administration, the protests have been met by sheer force from the authorities. Reverend Timothy Njoya knows such force. In 1997, Rev Njoya, a Presbyterian minister and political activist, was accosted and mercilessly battered by a plain clothes policeman in Nairobi during an anti-government protest. At least eight people, including a police officer, were killed during the emerging fracas. But now, the man whose public life cuts across both church and civil society, says CORD’s current protests are self-seeking and that the church, once the custodian of all that was good in society, a voice for the voiceless and defender of public interest has, yet again, come to the table a little too late.

“The church is always two years behind Kenyans. Whatever they are saying now, they ought to have said two years ago,” Rev Njoya says of the church. “They opposed the Constitution and now they are talking about upholding it. It is not that they are not sharp, they just need more sharpening.” Speaking to The Standard on Sunday from his office in Nairobi, Njoya criticised the motivation behind CORD’s spirited effort to ouster the IEBC. Fight for power “We were giving our lives for a cause. That cause was to get a Constitution that would end the one party system that was there. What cause are they advocating for now,” Njoya asks.

He says that the Opposition is trading people’s lives for power. “They are telling people that if they do not get what they want we will have violence. In essence, they are telling us that if they do not get what they want, what happened in 2007 will happen again.” He says, in principal that he is not against the Opposition demos. “I have no condemnation for them. The need to fight for power but they need to do so on a level playing field… not by including innocent Kenyans who are not involved in their power plays,” Njoya says. The 75-year–old has been thrice defrocked by the church over his stances on an array of issues.

He has however been readmitted back into his congregation. “It is not about who goes. It is about the system. I went through this in 1992 and 1997 with Raila’s father and the Opposition at the time, which thought its sole reason for existence, was to get Moi out. I told them the question was not about Moi going… it was about having a system in place that will ensure a level playing field for all those involved,” he says. “That is what CORD should be asking for. Not for the removal of office holders.”

A section of lawmakers have asked the President to disband IEBC with disregard to what the Constitution says, citing previous occasions where the president has been seen to act in disregard of the Constitution. Njoya says two wrongs cannot make a right. “The argument of whether he has broken the law previously does not hold any water. It is like telling someone to cut off your right leg because he previously cut off your left one,” Njoya says.

Despite his apparent disapproval of the manner in which CORD is conducting its protests, he agrees with the opposition on one thing. The brutality meted upon the protestors was uncalled for. “A parent should not be brutal to his child. They should let the Opposition hold peaceful rallies and go home. It is in no one’s place to beat another,” he says. “This shows the levels of intolerance within the State too.”

For him, the only solution to the current impasse is conversation. “The true mark of leadership is tolerance and ability to have a conversation with your political enemy. This cannot be solved by any other way and the conversation should not only include the political leadership but those that they accuse as well,” he says. “The IEBC must come to the same platform and say what they want. A level playing field does not belong to one side only.” But this conversation can only be held once both CORD and Jubilee set aside their baggage.

“They must first forgive each other of misdoings – real or perceived. President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila should learn from Jesus because they are both leaders. They should both forgive their enemies for they know not what they are doing,” he says. Njoya also takes issue with the role women have assigned themselves in what is shaping up to be possibly be Kenya’s Waterloo moment before the next polls.

“Why are our women not talking? I do not want to call them stupid but they have been stupefied by politics. Yet they still march the streets, threatening violence if their end of the deal is not met. Forgetting they were the worst hit in 2007 violence,” he says. According to the reverend, any woman who does not rule, or fears leadership is a sinner. In the absence of tolerance, forgiveness or the participation of women, he says we are fast approaching a dark hole as a nation.
“We might just obliterate ourselves,” he says. The violence that was witnessed in 2007 might just come sooner than election time, because of underlying feelings of permanent exclusion from power, authority and development in some parts of the country. “I always vote with the Luo because of my socialist background. If I were Luo I would feel permanently excluded from power, authority and development. I identify with the plight of the oppressed, perceived or otherwise. Not that other tribes have not been excluded, but the Luos are conscious of their exclusion,” he says.

“If unfortunately 20 boys are killed during tomorrow’s demonstration, it will be seen as 20 Luos killed. We will have commissions and Raila will compromise for a position in government to make peace,” Njoya says. Njoya however says the current situation is not irredeemable and that as a nation we have our fate in our hands. “We need to be thinkers. Why should I act like an illiterate and defend every government move no matter how irrational just because it is Kikuyu? Should the fact that I voted for Raila mean I have to be a sycophant and defend his every move? We should all begin here. Then perhaps we shall save not only ourselves, but our country too,” he says.

|Mr. Bigs: Juma and the other big man|

jj
 < p >
< /p >
Story originally ran in the Standard on Sunday on July 3rd 2016

Jacob Juma was planning to flee Kenya and settle abroad in the weeks leading to his murder, new evidence shows. He was also in constant communication with businessman Jimmy Wanjigi about the Eurobond saga, exchanging new information about goings-on at the National Treasury and the Central Bank, which he later found posted on social media. Interviews with a wide range of Juma’s friends and associates – some backed up by documents, SMSs and WhatsApp records – paint a picture of a complex, multi-layered individual in the middle of many wars, but who readily rushed to the aid of friends with cash handouts.

Juma was gunned down by suspected assassins on May 5 as he left Westlands for his Karen home. The man, who had publicly and repeatedly said his life was in danger, breathed his last after his killers, satisfied with their latest hit, rode away into the cold drizzly night on a motorcycle. His death galvanised the Opposition and his friends into alleging that Juma’s death was State sanctioned, a claim the Government denied.

Among the first respondents to news of his death was his close confidant Wanjigi, who is said to have enjoyed immense power and influence in previous regimes. Before Juma’s death, Wanjigi kept off the limelight, with few people knowing about the billionaire. He was also fingered in the WikiLeaks papers as a person of interest in a network of corrupt government officials and private sector deal makers who has systematically stolen or attempted to steal millions of dollars from the government.

As investigations pledged by the Government into the killing of the 45-year-old businessman became shrouded in silence, The Standard on Sunday set out to establish what may have been the motive of his killers and what kind of person Juma really was. According to most people he dealt with, the Eurobond saga dominated Juma’s life in the months leading to his killing by gunmen who to this day have not been identified or any suspect arrested. They testify to Juma’s bold posts on Twitter and Facebook, in which he offered tidbits of information about the movement of the money, Government “cover-up” efforts and the people he suspected to be behind the affair.

The Standard on Sunday was told that even though he displayed much bravado and table-banging arrogance, in private Juma could be deeply anxious and seems to have been planning to flee Kenya and settle abroad. From March this year, perhaps weighed down by the stress of being monitored, Juma actively began to look for property to buy outside Kenya. His search for a house took him to New York, London, Los Angeles, as well as Cape Town, South Africa.

Property agents he had contracted to scout for suitable homes said he had specific requests for what he wanted, at some point authorising the agents to “do all they could” to convince the owners of properties he was interested in to sell. Over the last 10 days, Juma was in repeated communication with several high-ranking individuals in Kenya, including senior politicians, activists, prominent businessmen and judicial officers. One of the last people he was in touch with by phone a few hours before his death was his close friend Wanjigi.

This might explain the businessman’s grief and shock over Juma’s murder. The two, according to our sources, talked for close to 10 minutes. Wanjigi was later to call Juma some minutes to 4am, by which time most of the country had learned of Juma’s death. The two were more than just friends. Although the world believed Juma was his own man, it appears that Wanjigi influenced some of what Juma posted on his popular Facebook page and on Twitter and had views about the numerous court battles his friend was involved in. Apart from sending Juma documents on various subjects, Wanjigi was also known, at times, to send Juma the specific things he wanted posted and in exact wordings.

In one instance, he informed Juma that, “the Thika-Nairobi transmission line (2012) was sponsored by the Germans, and yet treasury has the audacity to say they gave Ketraco Sh35 billion of Eurobond money to spend on it. They also claim that GDC was given Sh1 billion towards its Baringo project, but top honchos there say there is nothing. Hi pesa ilikulwa (This money was embezzled).”

Juma went ahead and posted it, after which Wanjigi acknowledged, having seen it. Juma’s other friends say the relationship between the two men had a master-servant undertone. For instance, on one particular instance, Juma fumed at his friend for keeping him waiting at his offices for hours and eventually not showing up. “Ndugu, how are you? You give me appointments and refuse to pick calls, why? I really like when people I consider as friends tell me the truth. I feel let down by you. Enjoy your day,” Juma said. Just as Juma was fed information by influential people, he too did the same to bloggers who backed him in many online confrontations.

There is evidence that he dictated and typed out to bloggers what he wanted put up in social media, mostly at a fee. His outspokenness brought him in direct collision with some of Kenya’s most powerful politicians. Apart from his much publicised tiff with Deputy President William Ruto, Juma often reached out to politicians or those close to them. In February, Juma reached out to the daughter of a top Opposition leader. According to our sources, the two were in discussion on how best to further expose the multi-billion shilling Eurobond scandal.

From her, Juma wanted unfettered access to the woman’s father. Friends showed records suggesting that Juma was not only involved in the day-to-day planning of political matters in some Opposition parties, but was also called upon to fundraise for their causes. In late April, a CORD agent reached out to him to help foot the bill for hosting pro-opposition bloggers at a city hotel. “Good morning Jacob.I did express to you my concern about the disorganisation of our online team and my desire to sit with them and try to create some focus. I wanted to meet these people on Friday. But as you know they are materialistic. Could you support me to buy them at least lunch,” the agent wrote.

Other acquaintances shared a softer and more humane side to the slain businessman, a side that painted the picture of a man living in fear of being killed. A female confidante said how even the minute noises during phone calls would send the 45-year-old into a rage. “These gangsters are listening to my phone. This is what I have to deal with,” Juma told her before apologising.

A government, an old man and oil.

Tags

, , ,

Story originally ran in the Standard on Sunday.

oil1

 

Nairobi Monday March 26 2012. After a lengthy mid-morning function, President Mwai Kibaki, all excited, officially confirmed news that had been sweeping across newsrooms as mere speculation.

At the tail end of a rather colourless state function Kenya’s third president announced the country had struck gold. A rich vein of black gold that would play a big role in transforming the country’s fortunes.

The timing couldn’t have been better. For years, the East African powerhouse looked enviously as her neighbours announced the presence of oil in their territories. But on that day, it was Kenya’s time to shine.

“I have been informed by the minister that our country has made a major breakthrough in oil discovery…this is the beginning of a long journey to make the country an oil producer,” President Kibaki said.

As the announcement was made, an old man’s heart skipped a beat. It was happening again. It seemed he just couldn’t catch a break. He switched off his television.

“I thought that I ought to have been part of the announcement. Perhaps the president didn’t know at the time that I was the one who discovered oil,” Dr Kengar Monena tells the Standard.

But, Monena says, big money, politics, a corrupt judiciary as well as insincere lawyers have all colluded or been co-opted into what he says is a grand scheme to keep him off the fruits of his hard labour.

Rewind to 1987, when a younger and spritely Monena, on a water drilling assignment for a European aid agency chanced upon something that he thought would change his life forever.

“We were drilling a borehole in one of the villages up north. As the drilling went on, we noticed that what was gushing out of the hole was different. It even smelt different. Like kerosene and after a short while the extracts changed from a clear liquid to a blackish liquid that smelt like kerosene gushed out.

“At that time I knew it was oil,” Monena says.

After that, they moved the drilling to several other places and the results were the same. He was certain he had struck oil.

“I talked to my friends about the find and they convinced me not to tell any more people about it,” he says.

Monena and his friends were afraid of what might happen to them if they walked to the then Energy minister Nicholas Biwott and declare his find.

“I wasn’t sure what would happen. Those were dangerous times. Once you walked into a minister’s office you wouldn’t know if you’d walk out,” he says.

So he decided to get a sample of that black substance and sit on the news. Until nearly twenty years later.

After a regime change and the house on the hill had a friendlier occupant, Monena decided to finally inform his government of his find. He had all the coordinates and, he says, knew Pokot and Turkana like the back of his hands.

“It was time. I knew, or thought, those in government then were noble and of good intention,” Monena says.

On December 13th 2005, Dr Monena, through his company Interstate Mining Company sent samples of that black substance to the Kenya Petroleum Refineries Limited (KPRL) Ministry of Energy. A letter accompanying the samples read in part as follows:

“This is to inform you that we have been carrying out drilling programmes in Turkana and West Pokot areas of Rift Valley Province to prospect for water for local communities.”

“In the course of our work we encountered a black substance smelling like kerosene which we suspect to be crude oil. This is a request to your office to carry out chemical analysis of the substance provided in the three samples…,” the letter read.

Two weeks later on 30th December 2005, Dr Monena got a reply from KPLR. His sample had been tested.

“Our opinion is that this material is more likely to be fuel oil. This is however not a full analysis, however due to the small sample size delivered to KPRL, a larger sample is required to enable a conclusive analysis and we can provide the correct sized sample bottles if requires,” read the communication from the state oil agency.

Excited, Monena ended that year on a high and couldn’t wait for 2006. He had grand plans, grand plans drawn up over two decades.

And on January 3rd 2006, through hi contacts, Dr Monena reached out and got in touch with the Norwegian Secretary of State for Energy, who then referred Dr Monena to the Norwegian embassy in Nairobi. Also he also reached out to the Permanent Secretary, Energy, Mr Patrick Nyoike.

“We set out to ensure everything was in order, even meeting the then Permanent secretary of energy Patrick Nyoike,” Dr Monena says. “The meeting was brief but detailed. I was asked to give details of the location of my find including the amounts of the samples retrieved as well as another batch of for a new round of analysis. The PS then promised to get back to us,” he says.

Meanwhile, Dr Monena, through his company Interstate with help from the Norwegian government had engaged top gear in preparation for the inevitable exploration and exploitation that lay ahead. Interstate applied for consent for exploration consents from the county councils of Pokot and Turkana. By mid-2006, permission was granted by both counties in writing and copies of the consent letters copied to the ministry of energy.

Unknown to him, plans were being hatched elsewhere regarding his find. And his role in the discovery would remain only known to him. From then on, his excitement to telling the world about his discover would be replaced by a certain despair as fate and what he calls a flawed judicial system conspired to kill the best of his dreams and relegate him to a black hole of court proceedings.

It all begun with a second communication from the ministry of energy regarding the sample Dr Monena had provided for further analysis.

A letter from the Ministry of Energy to Dr Monena dated July 14th 2006 said the following:

“The material you presented for testing was tested at the Keya Petroleum Refineries Limited and was found to be black and very heavy. The sample was found to be heavier than the crudes processed at KPRL. It had significant amounts of water entrained which could not be separated in the KPRL laboratory and as a result, no distillation could be done on the sample…given this position, I am exploring other avenues for testing your sample. I will keep you posted on the progress.”

The letter was signed by Patrick Nyoike, the then permanent secretary. Unlike the initial results from KPRL, this latest letter did not come with a chemical analysis report.

This was the last communication Monena and Co. got from the energy ministry. But he still pushed for the granting of an exploration permit into Blocks 10B and 11.

Meanwhile, one of the two mining blocks on which Dr Monena had struck oil had somehow elicited interest from another company. Turkana Drilling Company (TDC). Investigations by the Sunday Standard show that the company that was granted an exploration permit in late 2007 was at that time co- owned by two Kenyan businessmen Yunis Mohamed and Amyn Lakhani plus two other foreigners. One Jurg Hemann, a taxi owner and operator in Switzerland and Albert Raponi a Canadian legal expert with some interest in the oil business.

Yunis Mohamed was a longtime Ford Kenya insider. Subsequent court legal processes by TDC were executed by Wetangula, Adan and Makokha Advocates a firm in which the then Assistant Minister Foreign Affairs and current CORD co-principal Moses Wetangula was a partner.

“I have never dealt in anything to do with oil. I own neither an oil block nor shares in an oil mining and prospecting company,” Wetangula told the Standard on Sunday. “This was a plot by my political detractors to tarnish my name. IN the fullness of time the truth shall be known.”

As this went on, Dr Monena continued to write to the ministry of energy seeking for an exploration and production license.

“By this time, our partners in Norway had already pulled out. But we hadn’t given up hope. Despite numerous visits to the ministry of energy and several letters requesting the granting of a permit, we got no feedback,” he says.

Almost two years later, on 26th August 2009, he wrote to the president determined to inform Mwai Kibaki of his find. Part of the letter, which was received by the Principal Administrative Secretary in the Office of the President on January 18th 2010 reads as follows:

“Good news to you your Excellency. Interstate Petroleum Company Limited has struck oil in Kenya long before Uganda. Unfortunately the minister of energy has robbed us of this God given find. He has given a Petroleum Exploration Licence to foreigners and denied us the same using our oil sample…our petition is for you to intercede forthwith and grant us an exploration license on blocks 10B, 10BB, 13T and 12A…”

To date, Interstate awaits a reply from OP.

By the time he was writing to the president the license had already been granted to Turkana Drilling Company.

A secret memo from 2007 titled “Remittance of US$1million by Turkana Drilling Company Before The Scheduled Negotiations” from the Office of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of energy to Moses Wetangula alludes to a phone conversation between Wetangula and Nyoike, during which a sum of 1 million dollars was transferred to a bank account thought to be associated with the ministry.

“I would like to refer to our (Hon. Wetangula/Nyoike) telephone discussion this morning, Thursday July 5th, regarding the above captioned subject. It would be appreciated if Turkana Drilling Company remit US$1 million into the account of the Ministry of Energy…negotiations for Production Sharing Contracts (PSC) for blocks 10BA and 10 BB will be held within three days of receipt of the US$1 million as signature bonuses.”

The mining act is silent on signature bonuses. However, the Kenya government gives the National Oil Corporation of Kenya (NOCK) Sh100million annually to undertake preliminary exploration surveys. Data from these surveys is then sold to various companies that might be interested in exploration.

oil

 

Dr Monena is confident that it is the data from his initial survey and test results from samples provided by Interstate that were sold to TDC. It is also noteworthy to mention that the PS energy sits in the NOCK board.

“By 2010 we realised things were not working as we expected,” Monena says. “We wrote to the Attorney General over the manner that we had been treated by the ministry of energy.”

The letter to the AG had several accusations. Interstate accused Patrick Nyoike, the PS of abusing secrets of Interstate Petroleum and of collusion with TDC to deny his company an exploration permit.

By the time we went to press, the former PS had not responded to phone calls or questions posed by the Standard on Sunday.

As this was being done, ownership of the mining blocks was changing. Fast.

TDC sold its mining and exploration rights to Canadian firm Africa Oil Corporation for US$30 million.

That same year, Africa Oil Corporation and another of its sister companies Centric Oil sold half of their operations to Tullow Oil gaining mining rights to blocks 10BA, 10BB, 10A, 12A and 13T. Two years later in 2012, Tullow increased its share in several of the initial five blocks significantly.

And in early March 2012 the big oil companies got the president’s ear resulting into that big announcement to the nation:

“I have been informed by the minister that our country has made a major breakthrough in oil discovery…this is the beginning of a long journey to make the country an oil producer,” President Kibaki said.

With that, Dr Monena’s heart skipped, and since then its beating has never been quite right.

The frenzy that accompanied that announcement was enough to sweep away anyone who would challenge the legitimacy of the discovery.

In a press conference, soon after the president’s announcement, Tullow termed the oil samples as “high-quality oil that will yield more gasoline and diesel per barrel than some other crude discoveries in Africa.”

In 2006 a sample from the same block provided by Interstate was dismissed by the PS energy as containing too much water.

Dr Monena just couldn’t sit back. Letters to the ministry or even the highest offices of the land had done him little good thus far. He turned to the judiciary.

“After all, I knew I had the truth by my side. What could go wrong,” he says. He was unaware at that time, but many things could and did go wrong. And just four months after the announcement on the oil discovery was made, his years-long affair with the judicial system began.

You beat me once again, Ahmed Darwesh, even in death.

Straight from the heart Saddique, no make- up.

Saddique Shaban

rock and hard place pose

Allah says: “Innalilahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon” To Allah we belong and to Him we shall return.” (Quran Surat Al Baqarah 2:156)

And also:  “Every soul shall have a taste of death, then to us you will be ultimately returned.” (Quran Surat Al Ankaboot 29:57)

The demise of my friend, brother, mentor and former colleague at KTN Ahmed Darwesh has personified those words and reminded me- and it should remind you- on whose borrowed time we are living.

Television audiences and radio listeners knew and developed a relationship with humble, smiling man with  an astute command of the Kiswahili language. It was a steadfast, unwavering relationship that lasted more than a decade and which ended on Monday night, December 14th, 2015.

Perhaps working closely and relating with him daily made us take his legendary status for granted. For his TV audience, it was an impersonal relationship…

View original post 2,216 more words

Aside

The Maasais’ land question

Story originally appeared in the Standard on September 27 2015

Maasai

Maasai

In early September 2015, business was disrupted in Kitengela town on the outskirts of Kenya’s capital Nairobi as a section of traders protested allocation of market space by the local county government. Riot police were deployed to quell the unrest as shops and banks, among other businesses, were closed.

According to sources, the Maasai are demanding half of the market space and the rest of the communities share the other half. Last Monday, riots erupted again over the market. But the quasi uprisings in Kitengela are not isolated. Kajiado, Laikipia and Namanga have experienced such riots. To understand events in Kitengela, Kajiado and Laikipia, one needs to know the attachment the Maasai have to land and the circumstances that led them to lose what many of them consider a birth right.

One also needs to look beyond the 1962 Lancaster Conference and settle on the events that unfolded on August 9, 1904. This was the date when the first agreement between the Maasai and the colonial government was signed.

“We, the undersigned, being the Lybons and Chiefs (representatives) of the existing clans and sections of the Maasai tribes in East Africa Protectorate, having, this 9th day of August, 1904, met Sir Donald Stewart, His Majesty’s Commissioner for the East Africa Protectorate and discussed fully the question of a land settlement scheme for the Maasai, have, out of our own free will, decided that it is in our best interest to remove our people, flock, and herds into definite reservations away from the railway line, and away from any land that may be thrown open to European settlement,” the agreement reads in part.

The Maasai, on their own volition, agreed to be shepherded into reserves. For the first time, they could not claim the distant pastures their ancestors fattened their animals on. And this would pose problems – both immediate and in future.

Regret was almost instant. And more than a century later, the sense of betrayal among the Maasai leadership continues to run deep. And they say, it is only a matter of time before these sporadic riots in different parts of the country escalate into something serious.

“It is a fact that we have lost our rights in the past and we continue to lose our livelihoods. All we are asking for is that the land that belonged to us is returned to us,” Narok North MP Moitalel ole Kenta tells The Standard on Sunday.

He says the colonial government reneged on an earlier agreement to revert land back to Maasai at independence. “None of this happened. Instead of what we had agreed upon, the land was sold to land buying companies from one tribe that was in power then,” ole Kenta says, ‘one tribe’ being the politically correct term for ‘Kikuyu.’

In Kajiado, us versus them narrative can be traced to 2011 at a meeting in Isinya that was held soon after the homecoming of a local politician who had just completed his Phd studies and had announced intention to run for an elective post. The Isinya event was conducted in Maa. Speaker after speaker on that hot afternoon roused the crowd. Among the key proposals from that meeting was the drawing up of a set of rules that would govern land use and acquisition in Kajiado.

Kajiado Governor David ole Nkedianye attended the Isinya meeting. Now, some of the ‘outsiders’ who elected him to office claim he is part of the problem. “We have been wrangling over space here for almost a month now. This is the biggest market in his county yet not even once has he come to address us, the sellers and tax payers of this market,” said Kitengela Market Vendors Association chairman Joseph Kinyanjui.

“But we know, a day after the initial chaos, the governor met the Maasai at the slaughter house. We do not know what was discussed there. Neither do we know why he did not come and address us too,” Mr Kinyanjui said.

But Mr Nkedianye said those bringing up issues from the 2011 meeting are missing the point. “The two things are not connected. The events from the 2011 meeting are not related to what is going on now,” he said.

“The trouble now is that there are people among us who think they have a bigger stake in Kajiado than others. Kajiado belongs to all of us.” The governor admitted attending a meeting at the slaughter house, but explained: “Those people were annoyed. I met them to calm things down. People should be patient and plans are underway to meet all aggrieved parties soon.”

The case of the Kitengela riots is a curious one. Corruption, greed and extremist views from local leaders add to an already charged situation. “We bought stalls here. Some of my friends have been selling since the late 90s. They worked hard to get their space. Why would other people just come and get allocated stalls at the expense of others,” Joyce Njeri said.

But the governor says that the tension in the area has been calmed. “We have no issues now. Things are calm and I plan to meet the representatives of all those involved so that we settle this matter,” Nkedianye said.

The traders claim that in early August, they received information that the county government wanted to make some repairs on the three-acre plot on which the market stands. This was to be done in four phases. “However, after the first two phases, our stalls had shrunk. Space, without our knowledge, was being created for people who were never sellers.People who have never set foot in this market,” Ms Njeri said.

Suddenly, it was decided that the market stalls were to be shared on a 50-50 basis with the ‘indigenous’ population. This meant that 50 per cent of us would lose out. Where would we go to to make ends meet?” Kinyanjui says this is what caused the Kitengela riots, adding: “Those who were allocated the contentious plots would come back to us and offer them up for sale. Some of them have no intention of becoming vendors. They just want to make quick cash and cause chaos.”

Some say the push and pull within the traditional Maasai regions has got all to do with political supremacy. “This cannot be further from the truth. It is not lost to us that some of our land is now a major cosmopolitan area. A series of historical injustices have conspired to marginalise our community. This is what we want addressed,” former presidential candidate Prof James ole Kiyapi said.

But, history has proven that the Maasai can be their worst enemies. In the nineteenth century, two Maasai clans engaged in a war that decimated their numbers and probably made things easier for an advancing colonial delegation.

For years, the Imaasai and the Iloikop fought the Morijo War, a struggle between Lenana and Sendeyo. Although Lenana won, the conflict had taken its toll. These wars still persist. This time allegiances are not paid entirely to clans, but to political parties as well. And this, pundits say, might be the Achilles heel in a communities search for reclamation of an ancestral right.

The leaders however say they will not evict anyone from their land. “But there are parcels we want as is. There are group ranches that belong to us. Those we want,” Hassan ole Kamwaro said. “And there are those that were bought by group ranches that were close to successive governments…lands that were supposed to be reverted to us. For those, we want compensation.”

But some observers say the Maasai are living in the past and need to dust their shoulders over the historical injustices and move on.

Intricate web of relationships that trapped the wealthy koinange family

Story originally published in the Saturday Standard on October 3rd 2015.

Family patriarch Mbiyu Koinange

Family patriarch Mbiyu Koinange

On September 9, 1981, somewhere amidst the greenery of Kiambaa in Kiambu District, a slim, well-built man in a trademark suit stood up to eulogise a close personal friend. Mourners, who included the then President Daniel Moi and Kenya’s who-is-who, trained their eyes on him. Reading the mood of those around, some hunched over, others sobbing others with blank stares, the man in the dark suit cleared his throat and begun in familiar impeccable English:

“Today we say farewell to one of the greatest sons of Kenya… a fighter to the very end,” he said. “…A perfectionist because everything he did had a certain level of thoroughness to it.”

Thirty four years after that funeral service, survivors of the man who was called a “perfectionist” by the then minister for Constitutional and Home Affairs Charles Njonjo, finally closed a not so perfect chapter of their lives, drawing to an end one of the longest running court battles in the history of the country.

At the centre of this years-long back and forth were two things: the nature of the relationship between the deceased and immensely wealthy Mbiyu Koinange with two women, and to whom the property would be divided amongst the Koinange heirs. On Friday September 25, the court finally ruled on the succession case.

“We thank God that it is over and that the ordeal is finally over. We have spent many years looking for justice but we now have it. We can move on with our lives,” Mbatia Koinange, a son of Mbiyu, told The Standard on Sunday.

At the heart of the dispute is the disbursement of an estate valued, conservatively, at Sh17.1 billion. Court documents point to a laisser-faire attitude among those that were entrusted as administrators to the estate with virtually all those involved at one point or another, cutting their own separate deals, without the knowledge of the other administrators.

For a relatively well educated family, scioned from one of the first indigenous Africans to reach the echelons of education that the patriarch reached, what went wrong to threaten the wheels from falling off this vast empire?

The genesis can be traced to a series of key events. After his death in 1981, an administrator had to be appointed to manage the vast estate and make sure all arms of the different companies were running smoothly. For this to happen, David Njunu Mbiyu Koinange, a son from Mbiyu’s first marriage to Loise Njeri Mbiyu, was appointed an interim administrator on November 13, 1981 and tasked with collecting and preserve the estate.

But this was not what Njunu wanted. He had applied for a full grant to run the estate as the sole administrator. The following month two of his relations went to court to stop Njunu from assuming full control. This matter was to run for the next three years.

By 1984, sensing that the estate was suffering as a result of the prolonged battles, Njunu and his siblings entered an agreement. This agreement was to include others as administrators of the Koinange estate, resulting into a court-sanctified agreement that recognised three other people as administrators. Among them were Isaac Njunu, a son of the deceased from his second marriage, Charles Karuga Koinange, who was Mbiyu’s brother, and Eddah Wanjiru. For a few years, the ship seemed to have steadied. Seven years later though, the Koinanges were back to court, this time contesting the position of Margaret Njeri and Eddah Wanjiru in the family hierarchy. The two deeply believed they had been married to the patriarch at different times in history, a fact challenged by sons from Mbiyu’s first marriage.

“I was married to the deceased under Kikuyu customary Law on August 8, 1976 although I had been cohabiting with him since August 8, 1968…,” Margaret Njeri said during her cross examination.

Margaret also said that the children for the first and second wives were not invited to the ceremony. She, however, failed to provide any witnesses to back her claim of marriage to Mbiyu. In the 1984 management agreement, it was agreed that every homestead associated with Mbiyu would nominate an administrator to the Estate to look after the individual families’ interests.

Margaret Njeri, at the time presumed to occupy the slot of third wife, put forth a name familiar to many overseeing the interests of the estate. Her nominee was Charles Karuga Koinange— Mbiyu’s younger brother with whom Margaret had been accused of having an affair with and subsequently marrying. She denied the allegations.

Alleged fight In the course of her cross examination, details of an alleged fight between her and Charles’ wife emerged pointing to a brawl at a relative’s wedding between the two women over Charles’ affection. Ruling on Margaret’s status, Justice Musyoka found that she was not Mbiyu’s widow. “Margaret Njeri was not married under a system of law allowing polygamy to a man who was already married under statute… and no evidence was placed before court to satisfy me that the two ever went through a ceremony of marriage under Kikuyu customary law…I cannot therefore pronounce her a widow of the deceased,” the judge said.

As Margaret’s relationship with Mbiyu deteriorated — she says the two never met from again 1976, not even till the patriarch’s death in 1981. Another romance seemed to be on the cards. This time a spritely 21-year-old, Eddah Wanjiru walked into Mbiyu’s life. According to Eddah, the two met while on duty at the Office of the President, and, she says, the office romance flourished into something bigger and in 1976, she resigned after she married the deceased in November 1975 so as to “concentrate on her wifely duties”.

In her defence, she says that the two had a customary marriage. Justice Musyoka, however, poked holes in her testimony. “She appeared to state two conflicting positions. On the one hand, she appeared to say that she had married traditionally although there was no ceremony; and on the other she said that dowry was paid and the ngurario ceremony performed, although the deceased was not in attendance,” said the judge.

Eddah, in her cross examination, also says that there was no traditional ceremony to celebrate their union because her father was a leader in the local Anglican Church, the St John’s Church Kiambaa, and thus would not have been party to such traditional ceremonies.

“She did not call any of the persons that she alleged to have been present at the ngurario, nor her own mother, who she said was still alive, to attest to those claims,” said the judge. “I have come to the conclusion that Eddah Wanjiru has not established that she was married to the deceased and therefore that she was an heir to his estate.”

Ironically, even before meeting Mbiyu, Eddah spent her high school years at Chania High School close to another Koinange. She was desk mates with Isaac Njunu, a son from Mbiyu’s second marriage.

The recently-concluded case is among old matters the Judiciary has prioritised to deal with. Before its conclusion, it had been presented before 25 judges. But after so many years shuttling between the corridors of justice, the Koinanges are not ready to vacate just yet. Some of the assets that need to be distributed to the beneficiaries are not available. Many sold off, according to family members, by individuals not legally authorised to do so.