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Mashujaa Day PART I: Of Kapenguria Six, only Jomo Kenyatta died old and stinking rich!

They all served seven years hard labour but in 15 years, President Uhuru’s father made his family billionaires…the rest of his jail mates died as paupers

Uthamaki: President Jomo with future President Uhuru. There has always been a Kenyatta family member in all regimes since 1963, which was not the case with fellow inmates.

By GW Ngari

Editor-at-Large

The dead are survived by their families-spouse and the brats besides being “an uncle or aunt to many.”

But if people were survived by their properties, then founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta would be survived by: Brookside Dairy, Heritage Hotels & Resorts, Commercial Bank of Africa (which has since merged with NIC), Peponi School and interests in Timsales, Mediamax, Beta Healthcare, Chartis/AIG Insurance besides vast ownership of tea estates, plantations, land in the hundreds of acres, prime real estate and mining.

President Uhuru’s Old Guy would also be survived by ventures in ranching, large scale agriculture, equities and aviation besides billions held in bank accounts in Kenya and abroad including hotels in Europe and businesses in Brazil.

Nigeria-based financial magazine, Ventures, has recently estimated the Kenyatta family fortune at $1 billion (Sh100 billion).

Jomo Kenyatta was one among the Kapenguria Six, the so called freedom heroes who were arrested on October 20, 1952. The arrest ushered in the State of Emergency and the attendant armed struggle for Kenya’s independence and was for years marked as Kenyatta Day until the 2010 constitution changed it to Mashujaa or Heroes Day.

The six were Kenyatta, Kung’u Karumba, Fred Kubai, Bildad Kaggia, Paul Ngei and Achieng’ Oneko.

Judge was bribed Sh 2.8 million by the Colonial government to find them guilty

Family matters: President Uhuru Kenyatta was conceived at Kenyatta House in Samburu County in 1961 when his father only survived on government stipend of about Sh600 a month. But in 15 years as president, the Kenyattas were billionaires.

They all entered the Lokitaung Prison in Turkana County as equal paupers when they were found guilty for “managing the Mau Mau” an outlawed sect, and sentenced to seven years hard labour in 1953 by Judge Ransley Thacker.   

Of the six, only Oneko appealed the ruling of Judge Thacker who had been dusted from retirement and bribed with Sh2.8 million by the Colonial government to find them guilty. Oneko finished his sentence in Manda Island at the Kenyan coast.

Interestingly, all of them left prison in 1959 with nothing in the way of money, property and investments. Jomo in fact, survived on a government stipend when he was under house arrest in Maralal at the Kenyatta House where Uhuru was conceived in 1961.

Only Bildad Kaggia sought a life of active poverty

The rich widow: Former First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta is one of Kenya’s richest women despite marked lack of formal education, training and employment.

The summery of their fortunes despite access to various forms of government largess goes something like this: Only Karumba eschewed politics for successful business before his disappearance and murder. Only Kaggia sought a life of active poverty with his leftist beliefs. Ngei was singularly gifted with financial mismanagement skills. Kubai tried amassing some fortune but domestic misadventures were his Waterloo. Oneko, like Kaggia, had Marxist leanings  which might have influenced his laxity towards materialism. His single largest investments were his children’s education. This accounts to why the Oneko’s have a management consultant, a PhD in economics, an obstetrician-gynecologist and a capacity consultant.

Only Jomo scaled the financial uplands for which the Kenyattas account for their billions.  Never mind he rewarded his fellow inmates in various ways, but none became as wealthy as he and his family did.  

While Jomo Kenyatta died stinking rich and of natural causes on August 22, 1978, the rest had their fates in various stages of destitution and penury. Here is how they turned out…

Paul Ngei was nicknamed Fagia Dunia for having many mistresses including daughter of a fellow cabinet minister!

Rock bottom broke: Besides trying to tune President’s Jomo Kenyatta’s daughter, Paul Ngei had a singular talent in financial mismanagement.

Paul Ngei: He was survived by a bankruptcy. The most colourful of the Kapenguria Six, refusing to pay his debts, arguing he fought for independence. Picking a brand new Mercedes Benz, KNM 190 from DT Dobie and refusing to pay for it became Kenya’s longest test drive for a car.

Ngei was mentioned in the murder trial of Captain Judy Angaine. Her father was fellow Cabinet colleague Jackson Angaine.  Also roped in was cabinet colleague Jeremiah Nyagah. Ngei, nicknamed Fagia Dunia for having many mistresses, was said to have had the hots for Judy who was then dating Army Major David Kisila. Her murder in March 1978 was one of the most sensational criminal cases in Kenya.

Ngei also ushered in Kenya’s first corruption scandal. In 1965, the government imported relief maize from the US to cover a biting shortage.

Though Ngei had been moved from Marketing to Housing, he still used his influence as chair of the Maize Marketing Board (today the National Cereals and Produce Board) to allocate his wife Emma 2000 bags for milling at the family’s Uhuru Millers-without paying a coin. Another 300 bags had been bought with a permit as required by law. Besides taking kickbacks, he had appointed a company owned by his brother as the Ministry sole agent.

He was suspended from cabinet over the scandal. As Lands Minister, he once allocated 30 acres in Athi River to a woman who did not know her mother was his lover!

Over 40 creditors had been breathing down Ngei’s neck, but none could trace any properties registered in his name

Better days: It was only when Paul Ngei was declared bankrupt that DT Dobie could recover its Mercedes which Ngei could not sell as he had no logbook!

He was the only member of the Kapenguria Six who served the longest in politics. The MP for Kangundo was appointed Minister for Marketing and Cooperatives. He was in government in all of Kenyatta’s 15 years as president. He was found guilty of election offences and lost his Kangundo seat, but Kenyatta had the Constitution changed in what was called the ‘Ngei Amendment’ of 1975 which empowered the president to pardon election offenders. This gave Ngei a chance to reclaim his seat for which Kenyatta campaigned for him. After Ngei won the elections the law was reverted! Ngei is one of two people in Kenya for whom the law was changed to suit; the other being Chief Justice James Wicks for whom retirement was altered thrice.

Over 40 creditors had been breathing down Ngei’s neck, but none could trace any properties registered in his name. He was still an MP until 1990 but lost his seat after he was declared bankrupt over failure to pay a Sh19 million bank loan. He also lost his Garden Estate home sitting on five acres in Nairobi. DT Dobie could also recover its Mercedes which Ngei could not sell as he had no logbook! His legs were later amputated over diabetes. He died in 2004 at 81.

He was survived by cars, tractors, a hotel, prime city land and shares in a casino where some Italian Mafia also had a stake

Misery knows company: Fred Kubai was survived by cars, tractors, a hotel.

Fred Kubai: He became MP for Nakuru East and his fortunes went south after losing his seat in the bloodbath that was the 1974 General Election when voters showed 80 percent of MPs the door. He retired from politics in 1988 and died at 79 on Madaraka Day in 1996. His death was reported four days later.

He was survived by cars, tractors, a hotel, prime city land and shares in a casino where some Italian Mafia, Finance Minister James Gichuru and the late Juja MP Peter Muigai Kenyatta also had a stake. His estate was valued at Sh50 million by 2005. Sadly, the children from his three wives and a co-wife hardly received proper education. They were in small time hustling and small-scale farming by the time of Kubai’s death. Today, they are still battling in court over succession, forged wills and seized property.

Jomo offered him a 300-acre farm as an inducement to remain in government but he thumbed his nose at the offer

Active penury: Bildad Kaggia with one-time perennial detainee Koigi wa Wamwere. Kaggia was survived by a posho mill, two cows and some coffee trees.

Bildad Kaggia: He became Kandara MP and for his socialist leanings and criticism of corruption and the government’s land policy, Kenyatta dropped him as an Assistant Minister for education in 1966 when Kaggia defected to Kenya People’s Union, an Opposition party spearheaded by the socialist minded Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. Jomo offered him a 300-acre farm as an inducement to remain in government but he thumbed his nose at the offer. The defection, occasioned a by-election in which Kenyatta campaigned against Kaggia. The by-election was said to have been rigged in favour of Tadeo Mwaura.

Paul Ngei when he was Minister for Lands, asked Kaggia to grab as much of Del Monte land as he could

Kaggia was arrested for holding “an illegal meeting” in the run up to the 1969 elections and could not vie. After serving in several state commodity boards, Kaggia retired from politics in 1974 after failing to recapture his seat.

The man who founded Dini ya Kaggia after visiting Jerusalem in Israel, was survived by a posho mill, two cows and some coffee trees on his farm in Kandara, Murang’a County where President Kenyatta chided him over his cavalier attitude to wealth. Fellow inmate, Paul Ngei when he was Minister for Lands, had also asked Kaggia to grab as much of Del Monte land as he could, but he was unmoved by materialism. The poorest of the Kapenguria Six died of a stroke at the Kenyatta National Hospital in 2005. The father of three was 82. 

By the time of his murder and disappearance in 1974, he was survived by a fleet of buses

Fire in the belly: Kung’u Karumba was illiterate but enterprising and was survived by a fleet of buses and shares with Karai Farmer’s Sacco.

Kung’u Karumba: He was the only one of the Kapenguria Six who was not interested in elective politics and went to Kenyatta with a request that he be appointed District Commissioner. Kenyatta pointed to his illiteracy to which Karumba retorted that as DC, he would be dictating to his secretary which the president laughed off. Kenyatta ensured Karumba got trading licenses and became a surprisingly successful businessman. By the time of his murder and disappearance in 1974, he was survived by a fleet of buses under Mwananchi Transport Company and shares with Karai Farmers, a land buying Sacco he chaired. He also ran a roaring textile venture and imported raw materials from Uganda where he was murdered during a debt collection spree. His 54 year old body was never found. His property was put under a Trust which his family claim was never handed over to them. They had no title deed to their land on Kung’u Farm in Nyandarua County.

It is not in the public domain what properties survived Oneko

Books to the rescue: Jomo, Indian diplomat Apa Pant and Achieng’ Oneko. He was survived by his children’s higher education.

Ramogi Achieng’ Oneko: He became MP for Nakuru East and was appointed Minister for Information, Broadcasting and Touring, but joined the Opposition in 1966. Kenyatta detained him in 1969 and he was released in 1975. He was condemned to the political cold until the onset of plural politics when he was elected Rarieda MP in 1992 but lost the seat in 1997. His 87 year old heart suffered an attack in 2007 when he died in his Kunya village in Bondo. It is not in the public domain what properties survived Oneko. Besides Kenyatta, his children are the most educated of the Kapenguria lot. He invested heavily in education. Little wonder the Oneko’s have a management consultant in Dick Oneko, Dr Ong’ong’a Achieng, former managing director of the Kenya Tourist Board who has a PhD in economics from Russia’s Friends University.  Dr Olola Oneko is an obstetrician-gynecologist at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre, Moshi Tanzania, who has been applying the technique of cervicography to diagnose cervical cancer. Lwande Oneko attended the University of Illinois (Masters in Entrepreneurship Development) on his way to being a capacity consultancy in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Mediterranean in curriculum development. 

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