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Uhuru brother in-law sues stepmother over Sh57 million

Udi Gecaga is now dating Dr Sally Kosgey after separating from Jeni Kenyatta 

First among equals: Udi Gecaga was chair of a blue chip company at 26. The multimillionaire is now embroiled in a inheritance and property tussle with his step-mother.

By GW Ngari

Editor-at-Large

It is a bitter multimillion shilling inheritance and property dispute pitting President Uhuru Kenyatta’s brother in-law, Udi Gecaga and his step-mother.

The case which is slotted for the courts this June has been opening up the intricacies of immense wealth and convoluted love lives of Kenya’s power elite.

Udi once held the BMW franchise in Kenya under Mashariki Motors, besides running Kibuku, the busaa like chakula-kinywaji traditional booze fermented from maize.

He is demanding among others, Sh57.6 million from Margaret Gacigi-Gecaga, his step-mother and neighbour in Old Muthaiga where he also wants her to surrender, Thomar Hall, the matrimonial home she shared with his father, Bethuel Mareka Gecaga.

The Gecagas neighbours former Attorney General Charles Njonjo, the US Hungarian and Danish ambassadors.

But first, let’s roll out the cast in this soap opera:

The inheritance and property in question is part of the billion shilling estate of the late Bethuel Gecaga, a filthy rich, painfully punctual corporate executive with interests in large-scale agriculture, insurance, real estate, property, media, manufacturing and stakes in listed blue chips. 

His wife, Jemimah Gecaga- four years older than him-was the only sister of Dr Njoroge Mungai, Kenya’s one-time Foreign Affairs Minister and  personal physician of founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

Both Bethuel and Dr Mungai attended Alliance High School, Kikuyu as did Jemimah’s other brother, Ng’ethe Mungai, Kenya’s former High Commissioner to London.

Udi snubbed his father’s wedding, so did his sister Mary and assorted relatives

The prodigal daughter: Margaret Gacigi-Gecaga said they began dating Bethuel Gecaga when she was one of the nurses to Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. They married when he was 82 and she was 69.

Bethuel and Jemimah had two children: Mary and Udi Gecaga. Mary married a German  and relocated there. Jemimah was the first woman nominee to the Legislative Council and assistant probation officer at independence before stints as Kenya President of the YWCA. She was also a home economics lecturer at Jeanes School (The Kenya School of Government) and director, Skyline Advertising.

Jemimah, a founder member of Maendeleo ya Wanawake and Nominated MP died in 1979 at 59.

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But Bethuel had a side dish, Margaret Gacigi. London-trained, she was one of President Jomo Kenyatta’s bevy of nurses. “We used to meet and interact in official functions during the reign of President Jomo Kenyatta. Our relationship grew with time,” she recalled of how their 28 year courtship began, and rolled on with Muthaiga Golf Club lunch dates at 12.30pm on the dot. They officially married in 2007.

Bethuel was 82, she at 69 became Margaret Gacigi Gecaga. Udi, who argued that Margaret only came into the picture to take care of his father in the last 10 years of his life, snubbed the wedding. So did his sister Mary and assorted relatives. But Dr Njoroge Mungai attended alongside Joyce Gathoni Wamae.

Udi, also attended Alliance High School, and like his father, married upwards: Jeni Wambui Kenyatta, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s half-sister.

Udi and Jeni had three children: Jomo Gecaga, Uhuru’s Personal Assistant. Then there is Soiya Gecaga, specialist in charity and corporate law who runs the We the Change Foundation while Nana Gecaga, is the CEO of the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC)-named after her grandpa. But Udi and Jeni separated.

Udi now has former Ambassador and Aldai MP Dr Sally Kosgei as his current squeeze

Be careful what you wish for: Udi and former wife Jeni Kenyatta holding baby Mbi Mareka Gecaga (who later changed his name to Jomo Gecaga) and is today the Personal Assistant to President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Udi now has former Ambassador and Aldai MP Dr Sally Kosgei as his current squeeze. Before Udi, Dr Kosgey was dating Peter Kenneth, the former presidential candidate and MP for Gatanga.

When Bethuel Gecaga died aged 92 in December 2016, Sally sat at the main dais during the funeral at the Family Garden of Remembrance inside Yadini Coffee estate, Ruiru Kiambu County.

While Margaret Gecaga was acknowledged as his widow during the funeral, her tribulations now include a court order evicting her from Old Muthaiga or converting herself into a tenant. Already, Udi is demanding Sh9 million in rent arrears since 2016. The courts ruled that the house and seven adjacent properties  acquired before Bethuel married her, don’t constitute matrimonial windfall.  

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The other dispute regards the 3.2 million shares Bethuel held in Gateway Insurance  valued at Sh57.6 million, money now held in a joint account at KCB. 

But in 2007, five months after Bethuel wed Margaret, the Gateway shares and the Muthaiga home were transferred to Quinvest Ltd, previously under Bethuel but whose stewardship was in Udi’s hands.

Four of Bethuel’s properties had been sold to Udi’s daughter, Soiya, but the deal was reversed

Son of fortune: Billionaire Bethuel Mareka Gecaga was among the less than 10 lawyers when Kenya got independence in 1963. His interests sweep across large-scale agriculture, insurance, real estate, property, media, manufacturing and stakes in listed blue chips.

But Margaret argues the transfer was “fraudulent” as her hubby suffered Alzheimer’s disease and attendant memory losses and could not have authorized the transfer-of which she was entitled as her share of matrimonial property.

She had also argued that four of Bethuel’s properties had been sold to Udi’s daughter, Soiya, but the deal was reversed when Bethuel got wind of it and not recalling ever having been party to it in 2006.

The Court of Appeal ruled the shares were acquired before their marriage and thus she had no claim to them. But Margaret has refused to sign off the money to Udi  creating the current legal kerfuffle whose suits will be heard this June.

Before the court case and domestic tussle, Udi, the former chair of Lonrho East Africa and Standard Group, had largely lived off the public limelight since President Jomo Kenyatta died on August 22, 1978-when his corporate career ended before lunchtime!

Tiny Rowland, the chair of Lonrho sacked Udi before terming him “a mistake I truly regret” as biographer Tom Bower informs us in Tiny Rowland: The Rebel Tycoon published in 1993.

Udi did not go tarmacking and got employment by default and blood connections

Heads you win: Lonrho boss Tiny Rowland sacked Udi Gecaga before lunch when news broke that President Jomo Kenyatta died that August 22, 1978. Udi spent three years on the run.

Rowland, an empire builder, employed commercial skullduggery and politically connected henchmen to expand Lonrho. The henchmen did not come better than in Udi; educated at Alliance High, he had just returned from Princeton University, USA, in 1973,and shortly married Jeni Kenyatta.

Udi did not go tarmacking and got employment by default and blood connections.

Lonrho needed a front man with high table connections and his uncle Ng’ethe Mungai put in a good word for him to Rowland who appointed him executive director. He was only 26.  No internship.

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The Kenyattas needed a family linkman to media houses and Lonrho’s string of acquisitions included The Standard newspapers.  

As way of welcoming Udi, Rowland paid his flight to London to meet him. Udi left Rowland’s office with a check whose eye watering figure bought him his first house in Lavington, according to Bower.

But with Kenyatta dead, Lonrho did not need Udi whom Rowland replaced with the late Mark Too, a Kalenjin like the late President Daniel arap Moi who succeeded Kenyatta.

Lonrho ran Chibuku in Zambia, Udi ran the Kenyan operations under Kibuku

Mightier than the sword: Udi and the late President Daniel arap Moi. Udi was chair of the Standard Group which Rowland transferred to the Mois as “a token of appreciation.”

  Rowland also wanted Udi to return any company shares and other business dealings extended to him as chair of not just Lonrho, but also Motor Mart and Panafrica Insurance-now Sanlam Insurance.

Lonrho ran Chibuku, a Zambian traditional maize based beer, of which Udi ran the Kenyan operations under Kibuku. Udi refused to revert it to Lonrho and shortly exiled himself to America with Rowland in hot pursuit for three years. Rowland later in the late 1990s transferred The Standard Group to Moi and business henchman Joshua Kulei “as a gift for all the business Kenya has given Lonrho over the years.”

Udi had often been lucky, though. He chose his ancestors well.

His grandfather, John Mareka Gecaga, was a career teacher who later dabbled in politics at the African Native Commission in 1960s Kenya. He died at 100 in 1979. One of Mareka’s sons, Bethuel, attended Alliance High, Class of 1937, enroute to Makerere and Middle Temple College graduating with honours in law, Class of ‘56. He was one of less than 10 homespun lawyers at independence in 1963.

Part of the wealth his son Udi is fighting to reclaim from his stepmother was built when he returned to Kenya from the UK.

 It includes Bethuel and son Udi being shareholders and directors at the Paper House of Kenya alongside former Cabinet Minister Simeon Nyachae and the late politician, Njenga Karume who  held a 25 percent stake-bequeathed to his daughter, Dr Francisca Wanjiku Kahiu, in his will. 

The Sh57.6 million shares Gateway Insurance shares Udi is chasing is thus just a tip of the Gecaga property iceberg. Just consider that in 2015 Sanlam Insurance acquired a 51 percent state in Gateway for Sh561 million. It was renamed Sanlam General and stake pushed to 75 percent.

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