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The day Jeremiah Kiereini nearly killed Njee Muturi’s father

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As a senior civil servant, blue-chip boardroom director and an astute businessman, the late billionaire Jeremiah Gitau Kiereini strode the corridors of power like a colossus for three decades.

The positions lubricated the flow of money as he socialised with the high and mighty, investing in stocks and real estate.

In 2014, the man who died on Monday at the age of 90, fought to save his name — and part of his fortune — as the ghosts of listed motor dealer CMC returned to haunt him.

In his autobiography, A Daunting Journey, he glosses over it with an annexure dated May 14, 2012.

But there are other revelations in the book that offer us an insight into the world of power, business, and high society in the Kenyatta-era.

LOOSE TONGUE

One day in the 1970s, Kiereini reveals for the first time, he almost killed populist politician JM Kariuki’s brother-in-law Harun Muturi, a city millionaire who had built his wealth by trading in gemstones and trophies.

In the world of business, the late Muturi — the proprietor of Mamba Village and the father of Solicitor-General Njee Muturi — was nicknamed ‘Meta Meta’, thanks to the shiny gemstones he sold.

He was, according to Kiereini, also famous as a loose tongue.

The potentially fatal act was contemplated at Nairobi’s Mayfair Hotel where Kiereini had gone for a drink.

At the table were some of the most powerful people in Kenya: Commissioner of Police Bernard Hinga, Head of Criminal Investigations Department Ignatius Nderi and General Service Unit (GSU) Commander Ben Gethi.

The discussion, according to Kiereini, narrowed to Attorney-General Charles Njonjo.

THROWN OUT

Also at the table was another millionaire Edward Kariuki who apparently had walked in with Kiereini from Njenga Karume’s Pizza Garden.

The week before, Mr Njonjo (who like Kiereini was a major shareholder of CMC) had been castigated by MPs for holding a parcel of land in Surrey, England, an act that was termed unpatriotic in light of Kenya’s colonisation by the British.

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Kiereini writes that he felt obliged to defend Mr Njonjo, who was also thought to be disrespectful of Africans and carried himself with an air of superiority, having grown up as the eldest son of a chief.

For that, Muturi remarked that Mr Njonjo and Kiereini should be thrown out of Kenya.

Thii ukere murumegwo Njonjo ninii ndoiga (Go tell your husband Njonjo, I’m the one who said so),” Muturi curtly said and continued to insult Kiereini.

“I was so enraged at Muturi’s foul and vulgar insult that I decided I would shoot him. I went to my car in an overwhelming rage, to get my gun… I even considered shooting them all! But as I walked out into the fresh air… I came to my senses… went straight home and slept.”

MILITARY HARDWARE

Had Kiereini returned, he would have altered the course of Kenya’s history radically. Perhaps.

During the Jomo Kenyatta era, Kiereini was the permanent secretary in the Defence ministry where he oversaw the modernisation of the military or what he calls “complete overhaul of military hardware…an extremely expensive exercise.”

He hardly mentions the procurement only disclosing that the Chief of Defence, Major-Gen JM Ndolo, would go to him with all his requirements.

“We would discuss the merits and demerits and we would then consult the suppliers.”

This arrangement, Kiereini says, did not please Ndolo who wanted the military to be independent from civilian supervision. (Ndolo would later be implicated in the 1971 coup attempt against Kenyatta).

Kiereini’s friendship with Mr Njonjo would flourish over the years.

The two invested in multiple companies over the decades, including entities falling under the CfC Stanbic Holdings.

INVESTMENTS

Besides his life in public service, Kiereini also reflected on his time in the corporate world where he built his fortune.

READ ALSO:   It is cremation for billionaire and former chief secretary Kiereini, says family

His first investment in the private sector was the acquisition of a significant stake in Unga Group.

He had got wind of the sale from former Central Bank of Kenya Governor Philip Ndegwa, the late patriarch of the family that still controls the miller.

Ndegwa, an economist, had alerted him of an investor who was seeking to dispose of his Unga shares.

Kiereini used a quarter of his lump-sum pension from the government — he retired in May 1985 — to fund the investment.

It was after he left public service that he was appointed chairman of CMC.

The government was then a significant shareholder.

“During my stint as chairman I started buying shares in CMC for myself, because they were rather inexpensive at the time,” he says.

The businessman says he was not satisfied with the way the company was being run by its managing director Jack Benzimra who made decisions without involving him.

STANDOFF

Benzimra, however, reminded Kiereini that he was older and more experienced, having worked in the motor industry all his life.

Benzimra also brought up the fact that he had a major stake in CMC, adding that he would never do anything to harm the company’s management.

As Kiereini sought a solution to the standoff, he started accumulating shares in the company through his investment vehicle Kingsway Nominees. Mr Benzimra, who has since died, later left CMC.

Although he is a household name thanks to his time at the helm of East African Breweries, Kiereini hardly says much of his reign in his book.

Only that the beer wars between EABL and South African Breweries (SAB) led to a fallout between him and businessman Njenga Karume, a top distributor of EABL’s products in Nairobi and Kiambu at the time.

READ ALSO:   Here is why Kenyans are ‘worried’ about Mzee Charles Njonjo

He estimates that SAB could have lost as much as $100 million (Sh10 million) in the war that it eventually lost.

Despite the cost, the episode proved beneficial to EABL by ending its lethargic streak that had been bred by a near-monopoly status, he says.

EABL had restructured its sales and marketing networks and this affected Karume’s distributorship business.

Karume held Kiereini responsible for EABL’s corporate actions and did not forgive him in spite of offers of ex-gratia payments made through emissaries.

PRIZED POSSESSION

Despite his multibillion-shilling fortune, Kiereini says, in his book, that he doesn’t consider himself wealthy.

However, he says he is not among the poor either, alluding to the long-observed hedonistic treadmill effect (The tendency of a person to remain at a relatively stable level of happiness despite a change in fortune or the achievement of major goals).

He lists a double exhaust Mercedes 450 SLC sports car bought in 1978 for Sh680,000 as one of his most prized possessions. He says he laughs when he thinks of the hubris and snootiness of those days as they discriminated against anyone with a single exhaust car.

Another of his possessions is the 850-acre Kiambu farm (Gitamuri Farm), which he bought from a Greek family in 1974 for Sh5 million.

How did he get his wealth?

“Our society seems to thrive on rumours and I am sure there are also stories about me. I do not know exactly what people think of me having been in the Ministry of Defence as a permanent secretary or in the Office of the President… all I can say is that I never misused my position… it is difficult (for me) to comprehend how irregular tendering can occur given the many regulations that govern the process.”

This story was first published in the Business Daily on September 9, 2014.

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Death of festivals dims Lamu hope to revive ailing tourism

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Maulid. Food and Expo. Art, yoga and kite festivals. These are just a few of a slew of art and culture experiences that Lamu County used to dish out to the world and which boosted its tourism profile.

Lamu Old Town, also known as “the island of festivals”, had a splendid array of events and festivals ranging from Eid-Ul-Adhar to the Lamu Fishing Competition, Lamu Art Festival, The Lamu Cultural Festival, Lamu Yoga Festival, the Kite Festival, Shella Hat Contest and the Lamu Painters Festival.

But these events were put on the back burner as the tourism sector took a nosedive.

Coming on the backdrop of the Mpeketoni terror attacks in 2014 that also hit tourism hard, hospitality industry players say the vital sector is in the doldrums and want the festivals reinstated. Speaking during a forum in Lamu at the weekend, hoteliers and other players questioned why the county government has not been keen in reviving the events.

Hotelier Salim Abubakar said the county’s tourism sector was on the decline after the festivals were lifted. He urged Governor Fahim Twaha to restore the events and revive the sector.

“All the festivals that were introduced in the calendar of events are crucial. They served to attract visitors, both domestic and international, to Lamu. We need them back so that the tourism sector can be improved,” he said.

READ ALSO:   List of the late Njenga Karume’s Sh40 billion empire

Marketing strategy

Former Lamu Tourism Association (LTA) deputy chairman Ghalib Alwy said the body, in partnership with the county tourism office started the festivals to attract more tourists. Mr Alwy said it is important that the events are retained.

“We launched those events as a marketing strategy for Lamu tourism. Through them, we were able to attract tourists from Kenya, East Africa and the world. This is after the terrorism attacks led to an almost 90 percent decline of the sector. It’s only through the festivals that tourists got the confidence to visit Lamu again. The events must be reinstated,” said Mr Alwy. Mr Mohamed Hassan noted that local tourism was still doing badly, attributing the situation to a section of foreign countries that are still having active travel advisories against their citizens visiting Lamu.

“The travel advisories still play a big role in scaring away tourists. We want as many festivals as possible as they have the ability to ensure the tourism climbs back on its feet,” said Mr Hassan.

Some of the festivals known and which are still being celebrated by many in Lamu includes the annual Lamu Cultural Festival that is marked between November and December, the Maulid Festival marked every January, New Year’s Dhow Race marked on January 1 and Eid Ul-Fitr marked every July.

READ ALSO:   Kibaki and Njonjo: Neighbours who don't get along

The festivals are said to attract more than 30,000 visitors from around the world.

by Nation.africa

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Drama as delegates heckle DP Ruto during BBI launch 

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BY KEVIN KOECH

Delegates heckled Deputy President William Ruto during the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report at the Bomas of Kenya over his remarks on the report

The DP was forced to pause his speech after the delegates started booing him after he appeared to express his dissatisfaction at the Youth leader Trans Nzoia County Alex Matere’s remarks about his wheelbarrow donations.

Ruto said by saying that Kenyans should not adopt 16th-century technology, Matere was referring to the wheelbarrows he has been supplying to Kenyans.

However, Ruto noted that the discussions Kenyans should have is why a 16th-century tool has millions of citizens still dependent on it in the 21st-century.

The DP’s remarks didn’t sit well with most of the delegates, which resulted in them openly expressing their displeasure and forcing him to stop talking.

Mbita Member of Parliament Millie Odhiambo appeared mainly pissed by Ruto’s remarks as he stood and jeering Ruto, drowning his speech.

He went on to ask for a minute to conclude his speech but the crowd couldn’t hear of it as they continued to jeer him after he appeared to hit out at the former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka.

READ ALSO:   VIDEO: Kiereini's son cremated soon after being eulogised at a moving memorial service

Ruto concluded his speech by calling on leaders to refrain from contests pitting the rich and the poor by quoting former US President Abraham Lincoln.

DP Ruto then proceeded to welcome his boss President Uhuru Kenyatta to make his remarks with the delegates still shouting “respect the president,” as he took his seat.

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga also hit on the DP for engaging in early campaigns instead of supporting the President in delivering the Big-4 Agenda.

Raila said that Kenyans expect to be united for now but not campaigns of who will be the President in 2022 as they will handle that when the time comes.

The ODM Party leader noted that Ruto and President Uhuru Kenyatta should be working as a pair to bring a difference in the country.

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Uhuru maintains Raila is not government

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BY KEVIN KOECH

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday 26 October 2020 made it clear that Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga is not in the government.

Speaking at the Bomas of Kenya during the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, the Head of State explained that when he decided to come into an agreement with Raila, the mission was to find a way to healing this country.

“When we sat down to talk, something that was very difficult, for him and also for me and my team, very difficult. But when we got through to it and we spoke and we spoke again, we agreed that we are not here to share positions and we should put our various positions aside,” he said.

He mentioned that the two agreed to come together with a common agenda of ensuring that what the people of Kenyan have witnessed in 1992, 2005, 2007, and 2017 Kenyans shall never witness again.

He went on to make it clear that Raila Odinga never made any demands from the government.

“We did not talk about sharing government and as we stand today, he (Raila) is not in government. He is not in government; he never made any demands for the government. He never made any demands for a share of government,” he added.

READ ALSO:   Njenga Karume's Jacaranda hotel in Nairobi to be auctioned this month over unpaid loan

The President pointed out that Raila Odinga asked for the two opposing sides to come together and fix what has been ailing the country.

He explained that this would allow the country in the future to be able to compete without the need for the innocent Kenyans blood being shed.

He went on to that the ODM leader for showing his patriotism and looking for a solution because he did not have to do it.

Uhuru also gave special thanks to his Deputy William Ruto for being part and parcel of the handshake and making the BBI report.

He revealed the three agreed that they would never talk about elective posts as they aimed to unite Kenyans.

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