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
By GW Ngari
The Kenyatta family fortune has been pegged at around $1 billion (Sh100 billion) by Ventures, the Nigerian-based financial magazine. But there could be more dough held in offshore shell firms and foundations domiciled in tax havens, if the recent exposure by the Pandora Papers, is any yard stick.
That Sh100 billion could easily be one of the country’s single largest family fortunes, b.ut hold on: Jomo Kenyatta went to Kapenguria Prison with Kung’u Karumba, Fred Kubai, Bildad Kaggia, Paul Ngei and Achieng’ Oneko- the famous ‘Kapenguria Six.’
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.
The luck of the Kenyattas began with him being arrested on October 20, 1952
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 Sh600 government stipend while under house arrest in Maralal at the Kenyatta House where Uhuru was conceived in 1961.
Only Jomo scaled the financial uplands for which the Kenyattas account for their billions
The summery of their fortunes despite access to various forms of government largess went like this: Only Karumba eschewed politics for successful business before his disappearance and murder in Uganda. 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 became 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 explains why the Oneko’s have a management consultant, a PhD in economics, an obstetrician-gynecologist and a capacity consultant.
Of the Kapenguria Six, 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.
While Jomo Kenyatta died stinking rich on August 22, 1978, the rest of his former inmates nursed 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!
Paul Ngei: He was survived by bankruptcy. The most colourful of the Kapenguria Six, refusing to pay 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.
Nicknamed ‘Fagia Dunia’ for having many mistresses, 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 the Ministry of 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.
Over 40 creditors had been breathing down Ngei’s neck, but none could trace any properties registered in his name
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!
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.
He was survived by cars, tractors, a hotel, prime city land and shares in a casino where some Italian Mafia also had a stake
Fred Kubai: 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
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.
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.
By the time of his murder and disappearance in 1974, he was survived by a fleet of buses
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.
It is not in the public domain what properties survived Oneko
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. 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.