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President Moi: Inside the Sh300 billion hot inheritance…in a cold family!

The least known of the sons is John Mark who attended Harvard University but life on the fast lane took its toll

Doktari: Gideon Moi at the Manyatta Polo Club in Gilgil, Nakuru County. Favourite of Moi’s eight children, he also controls half the family’s multi-billion business empire.

By GW Ngari

Editor-at-Large

@Undercover KE

It will be interesting to see how the Moi children play out their inheritance cards. The fortunes of the late retired President Daniel arap Moi ran into hundreds of billions. The family bread, baked on over 50 years in and out of government sweep across logistics, aviation, large-scale, agriculture, media, banking, technology, hospitality and real estate.

The hydra of Moi’s business empire has its tentacles stranding into real estate management, security, construction, warehousing, education, horticulture, agri-business, maritime, milling, finance and equities-public and private. That is beside cash held in local and foreign numbered bank accounts. Africa Confidential pegs the entire fortune at slightly over Sh300 billion held in Trusts, shell companies, tax heavens, family and handpicked relatives.

Gideon Moi, Doktari, stands to cream a huge chunk of this bonanza besides his own individual investment forays in hospitality, property, geothermal power, renewable energy, petroleum, tea and tobacco plantations.

But there is a problem.

Moi’s eight children are divided into two camps: the six he hated and two apples of his eye.

As his British biographer Andrew Morton notes, Moi loved his last born son Gideon and adopted daughter June Moi. He hated all his other children with all his heart which stopped beating at 95 years on February 4, 2020.

 He even allowed Morton to include his bile for them in his 1997 memoirs; Moi: The Making of an African Statesman, where we’re told “Moi had little joy from his family… Those who know the family well observe that with the possible exception of Gideon and June, the President felt disappointed and rather let down by his children.”

Dr Sally Kosgey first met Moi while seeking post first year holiday jobs in July 1972 and had worked with government since 1983, rising to Head of Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet. That means she met Moi many times at close quarters.

But in all those years, Dr Kosgey never saw Moi’s children dropping by his office. She also did not know most of them, which spoke volumes about the deep rooted family chasm.

Of the six Moi hated, one was the family hot head. The other-the family brainbox-studied law in America but lived on the first lane and returned without graduating (and was missing in action during Moi’s service and burial). Another son went against Kalenjin patriarchal order and sided with the mother, while one daughter married the farm manager.

The situation was worsened by the fact that, though surrounded by people, Moi was always lonely.

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Yet, it was not always like that.

Moi and his rotund faced wife, the late Lena Moi, were married at the Africa Inland Church, Eldama Ravine in 1950.  Paul Bomett, Lena’s father received two heifers, one ox, and four sheep as bride price from Moi.

The couple- both teachers- was blessed with eight children: Jennifer, Jonathan, Raymond, John Mark, twins Philip and Doris, Gideon and June Moi.

Philip Moi was alleged to have links with foreign criminals

A twist in the tale: Lena and Daniel arap Moi were doing very well living in a wooden house before he got into politics that bestowed the family its billions but divided it for good.

British historian Charles Hornsby in, Kenya: A History since Independence, summaries the frostiness especially from the sons:

“Raymond Moi was a quiet individual with a chequered business past, who had been vice-chairman of KCC before its collapse and a director of a failed bank,” writes Hornsby, but doesn’t mention that Raymond often hired media consultants to have his pictures and stories appear in the Standard newspaper, yet the Moi family are majority shareholders in The Standard Group.

Hornsby notes that “Philip Moi was alleged to have links with foreign criminals and was associated with customs evasion at the Mombasa port. Jonathan Moi had stayed close to his mother after they split.”

The said foreign criminals were actually elements of the Sicilian Mafia who conned Philip Moi Sh2 billion as his Italian wife, Rossana Pluda Moi, let it slip during their divorce proceedings. The customs evasion bit had to do with Philip dealing with the Akasha family who were drug dealers, pissing off his father even more. 

Hornsby adds that though Moi “did not promote his own children as potential successors” he only brought into the ‘family business’ his youngest, Gideon. “By the end of the decade, he was grooming Gideon to take over his Baringo Central seat when he retired.” Gideon is now the Senator for Baringo and one of the two business proxies (the other being June) in the family’s multibillion business ventures.

During Moi’s burial, Raymond handed over a replica of President Moi’s rungu in a symbolic handover of the family’s political mantle to Gideon Moi.

Besides the two, other business interests were held in trust by relatives and personal aides like Joshua Kulei and in front companies in Kenya, offshore tax havens and several major international banks like Union Bank of Switzerland according to Africa Confidential.

Jonathan, not the first born, but eldest of the sons, was not as lucky.

He was only five when his father left teaching to represent Rift Valley in the Legislative Council (Legco) on his way to a political career that changed the family’s fortunes.

Not a penny more, not a penny less: While his siblings spoke in a twang, the late Jonathan Toroitich, who even dropped the Moi surname, spoke in distinct North Rift diction. He attended public schools and a backwater American university.

Domestic life took a back seat when Mzee Jomo Kenyatta appointed Moi Vice President in 1966 after Joseph Murumbi’s sudden resignation the previous December. Lena was forced to leave teaching and become a fulltime Vice President’s wife.

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Things changed when Kenyatta suffered a heart attack in 1969. Moi was literally the acting president with a more hectic political schedule was such that “This combination of absence and sternness produced the inevitable backlash, and as adolescents, the boys rebelled against their father,” notes Morton, adding that their separation in 1974 and a divorce in 1979, a year after Moi became Kenya’s second president, only made domestic life worse.

Of all the children, Jonathan sided with and chose to remain with his mother at the other family home in Kabimoi. 

While most African men are proud of their eldest born sons, Moi never warmed up to Jonathan not only for siding with his mother but also for taking sports like rallying. While some of his siblings attended St Mary’s School in Nairobi with the Kenyattas and the Matibas, Jonathan attended public schools. From Nairobi School, he went to the University of Delaware, a backwater State where he studied Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture.

While his siblings had a twang, Jonathan’s diction was distinctively North Rift. 

He married Beatrice Mulwa, a niece of former Cabinet Minister Nyiva Mwenda in 1984 but nastily divorced 20 years later. He later married Sylvia Toroitich. Jonathan was unsuccessful in his bids for the Eldama Ravine Parliamentary seat and retreated to farming real estate and insurance brokerage. He died of cancer in 2019, not in a hospital abroad, but in Nakuru County at 64 with one of the black dogs on his back being allegations of having been involved in the murder of British tourist Julie Ward in 1988.

The prodigal son: Philip Moi married Pluda at a low key wedding at the AG’s Chambers. He drove to his father’s house thereafter, as the bride took a cab to Muthaiga that day in 1993.

Exit Jonathan and enter Raymond Moi.

He was a director at Kenya Cooperative Creameries and Vice Chair of its Board when it was driven to its cow knees by massive looting and mismanagement towards the end of the 1990s. President Moi was one of its largest suppliers of milk. Raymond was also in Heritage bank before its collapse in 1997. Parliament was told that it was his conduit for transferring money from some state bodies to buy an airline. Raymond was later twice elected MP for Rongai Constituency.

John Mark Moi is the least known. He was missing in action during the burial of Jonathan in April, 2019 During his father’s National Memorial Service at Nyayo stadium and burial at their Kabarak home, it was only Raymond, philip and Gideon fronting for the family. John Mark’s place was taken by Moi’s granddaughters.

John Mark went for further studies in America but life on the fast lane proved too fast and disastrous. He returned without graduating. He became a virtual recluse, something to do with his marbles. During retired President Moi’s burial, it was his wife, Eunice, who spoke and someone close to the family whispered she has also been granted power of attorney over John Mark’s affairs including property.

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Then there is Philip Moi, the second last born.

A hot head in the family, Philip was often disciplined by the presidential guard. After St Mary’s, Moi called an uncle, Retired General Daudi Tonje who dispatched him to the army “to straighten him.” Philip is now a retired Major.

Morton writes that as President, Moi had instructed parastatal heads not to offer Philip any preferential treatment in state tenders and any favours he sought using his surname. But being denied things had started earlier. At St Mary’s School he often had little pocket money, recalls a former classmate. “We often drove in a government Mercedes all the way to Nyeri where we would call on the PC and Philip would introduce himself and plead being financially stranded. The PC would dish Sh100, 000 on the spot. That was a lot of money in the 1980s. We would drive back, drinking along the way” explains the classmate whose uncle was a big gun in the civil service.

But Moi was even more disappointed with Philip after marrying a chumindet (Kalenjin for White foreigner).

Philip, without family involvement, married Italian architect Rossana Pluda in a subdued civil wedding at the Attorney General’s Chambers in Nairobi on March 1, 1993.

I later discovered I had made a mistake but already with two little kids, a resigned to hoping Philip would change

A prisoner of birth: Raymond Moi was the silent one, but who ran down companies including a collapsed bank through which he transferred dough to buy an airline.

Pluda recalled how after their nuptials, Philip removed the wedding band and dropped t in his coat pocket before driving off to Kabarnet Gardens where he lived with his father. Pluda left in a separate cab to their Muthaiga home where they had so many servants it resembled a little village.

“The marriage was wrong from the start,” she recalled. “There was no communication from his side. He never asked me anything about my past or about who I was, my family or friends. I later discovered I had made a mistake but already with two little kids, a resigned to hoping Philip would change.”

They divorced 20 years after they met and 14 of those as a married couple with two children in what Pluda termed “the most gruesome journey of my life.”

After living separately for five years, Pluda filed for divorce in 2008 citing adultery, cruelty and desertion. She demanded that Philip “as a man of means” pay her Sh100 million in lump sum maintenance and Sh6000, 000 in monthly upkeep for her and the children.

 The least known of the sons is John Mark who attended Harvard University but life on the fast lane took its toll. He returned to a quiet life home without graduating.  

Some girls did not fare any better.

Doris Moi married Ibrahim Choge, Jonathan’s farm manager and his rallying navigator much to President Moi’s chagrin. Ibrahim had threatened to testify about Jonathan’s role in the murder of British tourist Julie Ward in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve when he died in a road accident in 2012.

The least controversial of the children it appears, is Jennifer Moi-the eldest of the siblings.

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