Self-aggrandizement, crony capitalism and nepotism made all the difference for Kenya’s First Family!
By GW Ngari
The Kenyatta family has come a long way if you consider that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s father once worked as a ‘Kanjo’, reading water meters for the City Council of Nairobi for Sh250 a month. He even rode a motorbike, very prestigious in the 1920s.
Even more interesting is that Uhuru’s dad went to prison with nothing, left with nothing, seven years later. In fact, Jomo Kenyatta was near broke when he became President in 1963. He was often bailed by Bruce McKenzie, the only mzungu Minister in his government. It later turned out McKenzie was a spy on payroll of the Israeli, British and South African intelligence services.
Anyway, in the 15 years Jomo was Kenya’s founding president, he didn’t need McKenzie’s money. The Presidency was enough conveyor belt of elaborate wealth that even with diminishing drive which comes with succeeding heirs, wasting the Kenyatta family billions would take a generation of peerless nincompoops.
President Kenyatta’s only daughter recently gave birth at Aga Khan…that grandchild will never work in her life!
Though the Kenyattas have discernible business foresight and many successful ventures, a huge chunk of the family fortune was coined using the extractive nature of the state: self-aggrandizement, crony capitalism and nepotism also called the ‘economy of affection’ besides employing favourable state policies to buttress their profits over the years.
Their other source was Kenyatta,the patron-in-chief of a patronage system, exercising a thin line between state and personal resources. Sharing the equivalent of an entire district in Taita Taveta and sharing it 50-50 with business fixer George Criticos and casually asking for a title deed without forking a coin was a case in point, as former Central Bank Governor Duncan Ndegwa notes in his memoirs, Walking in Kenyatta Struggles: My Story, published in 2009.
Pandora Papers revealed family of Uhuru’s Personal Assistant have held offshore accounts since the early 1980s
Indeed, at independence, notes Ndwegwa, getting a beach plot in Mombasa was only through Mama Ngina and her hubby-and they allocated themselves prime locations which laid the foundations for their forays in hospitality and for which the Kenyattas still sing their eternal financial Hosannas.
Something else: There has always been a Kenyatta family member in various government positions in all regimes since independence: Margaret Kenyatta, Jomo’s firstborn daughter, was first Woman Mayor of Nairobi, son Peter Muigai was MP for Juja while Uhuru’s cousins; Ngengi Muigai and sister Beth Mugo have been MPs and Beth is now a Nominated Senator. And wasn’t Muhoho Kenyatta nominated ‘Honorary Wardens’ of our National Parks? Quite telling when you consider the resorts the family runs in our Game Reserves, won’t you say?
And today, life could not be better with Uhuru as Kenya’s fourth president. His position provides the family with a strong shield against any risks arising from unfavourable and unpredictable government policies that send fear down the spines of many investors in Africa.
The Kenyattas would not allow her to get married to a spouse of lower status
And so, surveyed closely, Jomo Kenyatta had more advantages than his fellow Kapenguria Six inmates. He was not only older at 63 than all of them, but he was also worldly wiser from spending 15 years abroad, gaining a college education, learning the value of land and property which he went on to accumulate as fellow Kenyans partied, enjoying the fruits of independence when Kenya got independence in 1963-with Jomo as first President.
Despite the Kenyattas largely rarely working their backs off, Jomo ensured they attended prestigious schools
And so, the beginning of family fortunes started with Jomo taking advantage of the largesse and windfall that comes with the presidency.
And despite the Kenyattas largely rarely working their backs off to meet basic needs, Jomo ensured they attended school, and prestigious ones at that. Jomo himself set an example by graduating with a diploma in anthropology from the London School of Economics under the famous social anthropologist Prof Branislaw Malinowski.
Kenyatta clearly had advantages of age, education, exposure, upward marital pedestal
His ideologies also played a part in wealth accumulation as Jomo embraced capitalism. His maniacal acquisition of land was proof he knew it was the most important factor of production. Kenyatta clearly had advantages of age, education, exposure, upward marital pedestal and ideological vision. But few manna fell from heaven to the Kenyattas better baked than the Presidency.
Threatening to close Kenya Breweries during his Presidency, led to allocation of shares without buying them at what is today the Nairobi Securities Exchange writes Charles Hornsby in Kenya: A History since Independence, published in 2013. The family still significant stakes at East African Breweries.
Wasting the Kenyatta family billions would take a generation of peerless idiots
Hornsby also notes that, this interplay of an informal structure for the exercise of power, acquisition of status and allocation of benefits, encouraged official corruption in what appeared like plucking the fruits of independence to the benefit of family, friends and business partners.