Screw Driver

Dating @State House: The women Moi loved!

After divorcing his Kalenjin wife, Lena, Moi had hots for women from Central Kenya

An affair to remember: Business tycoon Stanley Githunguri and his six children with Elizabeth Karungari (seated in blue). Moi, then the Vice President had fallen head over heels for Elizabeth. The tussle over her resulted in endless grudges when Moi became President.

By GW Ngari


@Undercover KE

 He had a roving eye for other women but often lost to other men. After separating and divorcing his wife when he was still the Vice President, Daniel arap Moi went playing the field, but his search for love was kept under wraps when he became President.

Funny how Moi hardly forgave those who sliced him the women of his dreams. Two of the men, Kahunas in real coin, were almost bankrupted via endless court battles pitting their flagship business ventures. But they survived along with their wives-the women Moi had once loved to death.

Indeed, after divorcing his Kalenjin wife, Lena, Moi had hots for women from Central Kenya: One was the president’s secretary, but said to have been in Intelligence but working undercover. The other was a sister to founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s nurse.  

So, let us forget rumours pegged on affairs with high school principals of the various Moi Girls and settle on these two cases mostly whispered   under the tables in the 24 years Moi was without a First Lady at State House.

Moi separated from Lena Moi, the mother of eight children in 1974, their divorced finalized in 1979, a year after he became President.  

Among women he noticed was one of the few women in Jomo Kenyatta’s security detail, but as his secretary from 1965. It was easy to spot her semi naked, after all, she wore swimming costumes and swam next to Kenyatta who loved swimming, but with a weak heart for which he refused heart pacers, she had to be around just in case a heart attack came calling. Kenyatta was in his 80s in the 1970s when Moi’s domestic woes made him available.

The woman was Elizabeth Karungari.

One of her blood relations later narrated how Lena Moi once caused a stir at the Nakuru State House when she found Moi, who was not much of a dancer, dusting ankles with Elizabeth on the dance floor during a State Ball.

Lena accused Elizabeth of having a thing with the Vice President and when they finally separated, Moi decided to pursue Elizabeth like a Kalenjin after a new, greener pasture. But Moi was not alone. There was competition in the name of Stanley Munga Githunguri, later wealthy owner of the iconic Lilian Towers and later MP for Kiambaa constituency.

Sensing clear and present danger, Moi, spirited Elizabeth to London, but Githunguri managed to trace and impregnate her

Githunguri was the executive chairman of the National Bank of Kenya where both Kenyatta and Moi had bank accounts. Githunguri handled the Presidents’ transactions at State House and guess who he saw and went bonkers? Elizabeth Karungari.

That was in 1972, the year Githunguri married and was blessed with two t daughters, but his wife Joyce Muthoni, had turned into an embarrassing chief drinker at official parties and functions besides deserting their home, leaving him with the toddlers and two other issues from a previous relationship, according to their divorce papers filed under High Court Judge Allan Hancox five years after their domestic tiffs became too hot to handle. 

With his marriage going south, Githunguri began chasing Elizabeth. Sensing clear and present danger, Moi, also the Minister for Home Affairs, spirited Elizabeth to London. But Githunguri managed to trace and impregnate her there,  those in the know intimidated to Undercover.  

Aesthetic beauty: The iconic Lilian Towers in Nairobi, owned by Stanley Githunguri, was almost auctioned in a long running grudge over a woman President Moi also loved.

Paging Moi’s squeeze later became the basis of Githunguri’s endless court cases and business problems including a campaign to auction Lilian Towers, the crown jewel of his business empire besides Tassia Coffee Estate. 

So serious was Githunguri with Elizabeth he abandoned his wife and their house in Muthaiga, flew Elizabeth back to Kenya, and holed up with her at another house in Caledonia, Nairobi. He married her under  customary laws in 1977-the year she stopped working as Kenyatta’s secretary and undercover agent. 

Elizabeth and Githunguri later moved to Karen with the toddlers who formed part of the 1978  divorce and custody court case, Githunguri vs Githunguri, all the way to the Court of Appeal under Justice James Wicks.

Githunguri’s first wife had sued for divorce on grounds of adultery with Elizabeth Karungari, but was later dismissed after their customary marriage. Justice Wicks gave custody of the toddlers to the estrange wife.

President Moi lost Elizabeth to Githunguri with whom she would have six children, but he often  found himself in trouble after Jomo Kenyatta died in August 1978, a year after his second marriage.

CID officers would storm his office and find him with foreign currency, then illegal at the time, without authority from Central Bank. The foreign currency violation issue was used against him for almost a decade besides auctioning Lilian Towers over a bank loan whose repayment was fast tracked as revenge for having sliced Moi of Elizabeth Karungari.  

Game short: The late retired President Moi’s first wife, Lena, was not amused after finding him dancing with a woman at State House Nakuru, yet he was not much of a dancer, which she considered unchristian. The woman was Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s secretary.

In the meantime, State House was still a hunting ground for women: Kenyatta’s Aide de Camp Major Marsden Madoka married Elizabeth Wambui, the 1963 Miss Uhuru, who was later employed as Kenyatta’s Social Secretary. Her work included taking young Uhuru Kenyatta to Lady Northey Nursery School along State House Road and escorting Mama Ngina for Parent’s Day at Kenya High School where Jeni Kenyatta was a champion sprinter.

The late Jeremiah Kiereini, Head of the Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet, also found his second wife, Muringo Kiereini at State House where she was Kenyatta’s nurse on her way to being appointed Kenya’s Chief Nursing Officer.

Charles Njonjo, the bachelor Attorney General could have married Margaret Wanjiru Koinange, the Matron-in-Chief at State House but he was keen on a mzungu wife.

So, all was not lost for Moi after losing Elizabeth Karungari to Stanley Githunguri. Moi almost got a wife from Kiereini who often invited his wife’s nieces and sister for State House Balls. After all, the Githae’s were the prominent family of colonial chief Githendui Githae and whose children became prominent Kenyans: Think of Robinson Njeru Githae, former Finance Minister and current Kenyan ambassador to the USA and Prof Micere Githae Mugo.

Moi never caught up in the ensuing love sprints when they returned a month later

Their young sister Purity Gathoni was among those invited and Moi went crazy over her. “The retired President went bonkers at the sight one of the Githae girls,” says a former classmate of his son Philip. “The problem was SK Macharia was also interested in the girl Moi had mad love for.”

To win her heart, business tycoon SK Macharia flew the fetching school girl to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics in the USA … and Moi never caught up in the ensuing love sprints when they returned a month later.

Like Githunguri, SK Macharia divorced his first wife Serah Njeri with whom he had four children including the late John Macharia who became a successful businessman, the founder of DirectLine Assurance, Kenya’s largest PSV insurer. He unfortunately died in a road accident along the Southern Bypass in 2018.

Royal stakes: Business tycoon SK Macharia could be Kenya’s richest self-made man, were it not for a tag-of-war over a woman he and President Moi loved.

 Moi’s unrequited love created endless business bottlenecks for SK Macharia and were it not for their fight over her, SK would easily be Kenya’s richest man-which is a story for another day.

 Surprisingly, Moi would have Purity cook for him by visiting SK Macharia.  

Wanjiru Waithaka and Evans Majeni in their 2012 book, A Profile of Kenyan Entrepreneurs, write that the presidential security detail would camp at the home of the Macharias four days before the scheduled lunch, carrying cooking utensils and drinking water.

 But Purity would have none of the shenanigans associated with presidential security. She let Moi know that she could not possibly poison him and that if he wanted to eat her food then his security had to take a hike, including then Central Province Provincial Commissioner Wilson Chepkwony who had secured the kitchen.

“If the President wants to come to my home, I will provide and cook the food. I do not want security people in my kitchen, otherwise he can stay and not come,” she told the PC and which was how Moi had lunch cooked by Purity and served by her together her friend, Monica Kibe, at their Ndakaini home in Murang’a County.

Editor’s Note: This list might grow longer going forward.

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