Challenging Uhuru Kenyatta as “Richest Person in Kenya”
Forbes classification criteria questioned; Uhuru’s wealth is stolen wealth
Forbes Magazine recently published a list of Africa’s 40 richest persons with Uhuru Kenyatta ranked 26th and number one richest person in Kenya. His net worth is an estimated $500 million, which translates to almost 50 billion Kenyan Shillings.
This is how Forbes described his wealth: “Kenya’s Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta is the son of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, and heir to some of the largest land holdings in Kenya. He owns at least 500,000 acres of prime land spread across the country. The land was acquired by his father in the 1960s and 1970s when the British colonial government and the World Bank funded a settlement transfer fund scheme that enabled government officials and wealthy Kenyans to acquire land from the British at very low prices. Uhuru and his family also own Brookside Dairies, Kenya’s largest dairy company, as well as stakes in popular television station K24 and a commercial bank in Nairobi, among other interests.”
In a WikiLeaks cable dated June 26th 2009, former US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger described Uhuru’s wealth this way: “Although his wealth is the inheritance from his father’s corruption, the Kenyatta family still holds a special status”. Yet another description from veteran Kenyan journalist and lecturer Joe Kadhi on his blog ‘Msemakweli’ goes: “Among the haves, Uhuru represents the pinnacle of cornucopia. He has wealth he hardly worked for. Wealth that was acquired by his father through the use of despotic powers. All this, when children of true freedom fighters are languishing in indescribable poverty, caused by the exploitation by the very people who opposed the fight for independence.”
Did Forbes investigate the origins of Uhuru Kenyatta’s wealth? According to the magazine, it does not include political leaders on its list of the richest because it is not easy to calculate how they have generated their wealth. Ironically, Uhuru is a Member of Parliament for Gatundu South, Leader of KANU Party and Deputy Prime Minister. Information on its website notes that: “Forbes has long separated rulers and dictators from our annual rankings of the World’s Billionaires, distinguishing between personal, entrepreneurial wealth and wealth derived largely from positions of power, where lines often blur between what is owned by the country and what is owned by the individual.” How many generations does it take to “clean” allegedly ill-begotten wealth?
Since Uhuru is now on the Forbes list, Moi’s son Gideon should be considered at a certain point because his father was also president, yet gathered wealth unscrupulously as noted in the Kroll Report commissioned by president Kibaki in 2003 and submitted in 2004. It is alleged that Moi and his relatives “siphoned off more than £1bn+ of government money.” Gideon Moi was then worth £550m.
Kenyatta: The biggest land grabber in Kenyan history
The naming of Uhuru as Kenya’s richest man generated mixed reactions from Kenyans in the social media. Many felt that his father Jomo Kenyatta, used his position as president to grab land and accumulate enormous wealth. There are documents indicating that Jomo Kenyatta acquired land through resettlement schemes organized by the then British government and the World Bank. Uhuru Kenyatta has mentioned in the past that his wealth belongs to the “Kenyatta family”. In November 2010, the online business magazine “Africa Investor” wrote that Uhuru had estimated his family’s wealth at $10 billion.
Journalist John Kamau reported in 2009 that by September 1963, Jomo Kenyatta had consented to the transfer of Kikuyus from the transit farm Bahati in Rift Valley, to the tsetse fly-infested Mpanda Settlement Scheme in Tanzania. This was basically because the Kenyatta family and other African elite, had taken over most of the farms formerly owned by Europeans who had decided to sell. The ex-Mau Mau fighters who returned to reclaim their land found nothing and were pushed by Kenyatta to Rift Valley. It was only after many protests by Kikuyus that the Mpanda transfer was abandoned.
In 2009, a Kenyan-run blog Kumekucha, wrote that Pio Gama Pinto (who was an appointed politician in the House of Representatives in 1964), discovered that “Kenyatta had allocated himself a total of 50 farms in Central province and Rift valley. Some of the farms had poor Kikuyu squatters who were to be evicted. Others were farms that had been owned by whites and sold back to the Kenyan government. Pinto was incensed by this and despite making overtures to Kenyatta not to go ahead with the evil he was doing, Kenyatta adamantly stuck to his guns. Pinto decided to move a vote of no confidence in Kenyatta. Kenyatta confronted him within the precincts of parliament and challenged him over the no confidence vote. When Pinto refused to back down Kenyatta called him a bastard to which Pinto immediately responded by telling Kenyatta in front of witnesses and other cabinet ministers that he (Kenyatta) was also a bastard. A stunned friend pulled Pinto aside and asked him how he could call Kenyatta a bastard to which Pinto retorted, ‘he called me one first’. It was shortly after this incident that the decision was made to kill Pinto.”
In June 2000, journalist John Kamau published an article named “Kenyatta in trouble 22 years after his death”. He cited people who questioned how he had acquired so much wealth in only 15 years as president, while others called him murderer, tribalist and land grabber. “Kenyatta’s family must account for its wealth,” retorts Wanyiri Kihoro, the opposition MP from the Democratic Party of Kenya. He hails from the same populous Kikuyu tribe as Kenyatta. But he is unfazed by tribal loyalties. “We all know that Kenyatta was a land-grabber”, Kihoro adds somewhat irreverently. Luke Obok, the Chairman of the Kenya Pipeline Company: “Kenyatta’s regime was worse [than Moi's]. Nobody was allowed to question the ills of his government. It is sad that under him, many Luos [from the other big tribe in the country] who were in top positions were frustrated and those in the army and police were summarily dismissed”.
Links to illegal trade in Ivory and forced Kenyatta shares in companies
“How did Kenyatta amass all that wealth given that he was in detention for eight years”, asks Martin Shikuku, a member of the team that negotiated Kenya’s independence constitution at Lancaster House in London in 1962. An outspoken member of Moi’s cabinet, Francis Lotodo, has even demanded that Kenyatta should be tried posthumously for “crimes committed against Kenyans”. Says Martin Shikuku: “It is common knowledge that Kenyatta’s regime thrived on the plunder of the national economy. He surrounded himself with a gang of tribalists that controlled his government.” Shikuku was detained without trial in 1976 by Kenyatta, for saying in parliament that the ruling Kanu party was dead.
Shikuku is particularly scathing in his attacks. “[Kenyatta] was not a nationalist as depicted by historians, he was a manipulator,” Shikuku says. “He concentrated too much power in the presidency, no wonder the colonial governor (Sir Patrick Renison) referred to him as `a leader unto darkness’.” But the respected former Kenyan freedom fighter, Bildad Kaggia, who was detained with Kenyatta in 1958 by the British, appears to have finally twisted the knife by saying that Kenyatta tried “many times” to harm him. Kaggia fell out with Kenyatta in 1969. He now says he refused to amass wealth like other cabinet ministers and that was why he was sidelined. Today, he lives a pauper’s life, operating a small posho mill in central Kenya.
In May 2011, a staff reporter at “investmentnewskenya.com” wrote that an American news magazine noted in 1979 that the Kenyatta family estate was worth $200 million. In a recent report by Kenya’s Citizen TV, the family’s wealth was more that $ 1.9 billion. It is questionable that Forbes reported Uhuru owns 500,000 acres of land, which is equated with the size of Nyanza province. This ownership has always been mentioned under the Kenyatta family. When did Uhuru become the sole owner of his family’s wealth? How did Forbes sort out what was owned by whom? Uhuru’s younger brother Muhoho is noted as the person largely running the family business. Earlier, it was his mother Mama Ngina who was seen as the force behind the vast Kenyatta business empire, which constitutes diverse investments ranging from dairy farming, banking to real estate, among others.
Rumours abound about Uhuru’s elder step sister Margaret Kenyatta, and Mama Ngina’s links to ivory smuggling in the 1970s. On May 22 1975, Jon Tinker wrote in the New Scientist magazine about elephant poaching in Kenya, which involved some prominent persons. Sections of the article are quoted verbatim here: “Kenya has perhaps 120 000 elephants, and every year between 10 000 and 20 000 elephants are being killed for their ivory. At this rate, the Kenyan elephant will be virtually extinct within a decade. Kenya’s ivory trade is currently worth around $10 million a year, but little of this money goes to the poachers. Not much goes to the government of Kenya either, for officially it has banned all private dealing in ivory. The profits are made by a few merchants in Nairobi and Mombasa, who bribe the game department and the wildlife ministry, the customs and the police to let them ship ivory by the ton to Europe, Hong Kong, Japan and People’s China.”
Enough money to compensate the PEV victims
The identity of these ivory queens is a matter of common gossip in Nairobi, and the most prominent of them are said to be Mama Ngina and Margaret Kenyatta, respectively wife and daughter to the President. In Kenya today, you can be sent to prison for what is called rumour-mongering, so in this article I shall confine myself to provable fact. And there is now documentary proof that at least one member of Kenya’s Royal family has recently shipped over six tons of ivory to Red China. Moreover, in spite of repeated denials from the Kenyan wildlife ministry that they have issued any licences to deal in or export raw ivory, this trading is being carried out with the active connivance of the highest officials in the game department.”
Tinker wrote that despite the government’s ban on private ivory export in August 1974, Margaret Kenyatta had since then “illicitly sent over 6 tonnes worth $200 000 to People’s China”. The United African Corporation (Kenya) Limited was a key exporter of ivory to China, Hong Kong and Japan. Records at that time showed she held 16 per cent shares in the company which was registered in 1964. However, by 1974, she held 49 per cent and had become chairperson of the company.
John Kamau’s investigative articles about Kenyatta’s estate published in Kenya’s “Business Daily” in May 2009, did not indicate the amount of money paid to some parcels of land acquired by Jomo Kenyatta and Mama Ngina. Instead, a lot was shown to have been bought under the names of his elder sons, Peter Muigai and Magana Kenyatta. “The only farm registered in Jomo Kenyatta’s name in 1964 was a 5 acre farm he bought from a Mr. J.R. Wood and for KSh 400.” Kenyatta paid KES 45 000 to buy 400 acres of land in Dandora, as trustee to minor son Uhuru.
Logically, Kenyatta’s salary as president was not enough to buy 500,000 acres of land in the 15 years he ruled. There have been rumors of Kenyatta having forced all foreign companies to offer 15 per cent of their shares to his family before trading in Kenya. This might explain the high stakes they have in many businesses. It was recently noted by Citizen TV that the Kenyattas have shares worth $830 million in the privately-owned Commercial Bank of Africa.
There are no records of Uhuru paying taxes on his salary as Gatundu South Member of Parliament since 2002 or as Deputy Prime Minister, since 2008. Did Forbes investigate how much property taxes he pays to the Kenya Revenue Authority? What about reports about large sums of money “disappearing” at Treasury since he became the Finance Minister? What of all the Parliamentary and media reports of the highly-priced and single-sourced procurement of low fuel consuming official cars for ministers? Since Mama Ngina has other chidren beside Uhuru, how did Forbes determine how much Uhuru is worth within the Kenyatta estate? On the other hand, the International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo must be marvelling because he wants a stop on the transfer of all movable and immovable assests he owns, in case he will be found guilty in the ongoing post election violence (PEV) case. Uhuru is rich enough to compensate the PEV victims if found guilty.
In conclusion, the background of Uhuru Kenyatta’s wealth is awash with alleged illegal acquisitions by other members of his wider family, so it was unethical for Forbes to list him as the richest man in Kenya and the 26th richest man in Africa.
Dr. Jared Odero