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Atwoli’s big home where political deals are struck

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When photos of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Central Kenya politician Peter Kenneth, Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) Secretary General Francis Atwoli and Jubilee Party vice-chairman and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s fixer David Murathe emerged on Sunday evening, Kenyans were left guessing the reason for the latest rendezvous. And for very good reasons.

ODM leader Raila Odinga (third left) with (from left) Maoka Maore, Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, David Murathe and Siaya Senator James Orengo at Atwoli’s Kajiado residence . PD/COURTESY

One, it was the first time Raila was being seen in public more than two weeks since his return from Dubai where he underwent a minor surgery.

But more importantly, the meeting was coming only two days to today’s decisive vote on the revenue sharing bill, which has split the Senate down the middle, shaking the very foundations of the Handshake between Uhuru and Raila and threatening its brainchild, the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

It was instructive that the meeting at Atwoli’s Ildamat home in Kajiado County, was also attended by Raila’s right hand man James Orengo and the National Assembly deputy Majority Whip Maoka Maore.

Orengo and Maore’s presence at the meeting appeared to let the cat out of the bag; that it had everything to do with the vote on the revenue sharing formula.

A source privy to the meeting’s deliberations, but who cannot be named because they do not speak on behalf of the leaders, confirmed that the need to whip senators into supporting the third basis revenue formula, dominated the meeting.

“Raila’s personal intervention, directly or through Jim (Orengo) was required to sway the vote, especially among Coast, Kisii and Western senators, while Murathe assured that he would use Jubilee structures to whip the Mountain senators,” said the source.

It was not the first time Atwoli’s Ildamat home was hosting a high-profile meeting to shape the nation’s political discourse, especially touching on the Handshake, the bBi and the 2022 General Election.

Set on an expansive 50-acre ranch approximately 60 kilometres from Nairobi on the main Nairobi-Namanga highway – a taxi ride from Kajiado town would set you back a tidy Sh3,000 – Atwoli’s Ildamat home is fast transforming itself into Kenya’s new Ichaweri, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s Gatundu residence where political careers were made or annihilated, or more recently, Kabarak, the late Mzee Moi’s residence in Nakuru where many a politician’s loyalty was measured and those found wanting sent to oblivion.

The imposing four-bedroomed double storey residence is set out on roughly three acres surrounded by a perimetre wall. To access the residence, one has to drive past two huge wooden gates guarded round the clock by mean looking police officers.

One has to make a phone call to Atwoli to be cleared to enter the compound.

There are two parking areas. The main one, located right in front of the main house, is reserved for VIPs and the second one, set between the two entrances, for the lesser mortals and taxi drivers.

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Besides the main house, the home boasts of a fully stocked restaurant where the Cotu chief entertains his visitors with food and drinks.

The home also boasts several two and three bedroomed staff quarters which mainly house his security guards and drivers.

Congolese band

A Congolese band is always at hand to entertain the veteran trade unionist and his guests, especially on special occasions such as birthdays and Labour Day evening parties.

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria once described the mansion estimated to have cost the veteran trade unionist between Sh70 million to Sh100 million, as therapeutic, with its manicured lawns, perfectly trimmed hedges, as well as its pristine location.

Lugari MP Ayub Savula, a frequent visitor to the residence, told People Daily newspaper yesterday: “It is no longer a simple residence. It is fast becoming the venue of choice for serious meetings to determine the country’s course of politics. Only two weeks ago, Gideon (Moi) led a delegation to the home and donated 60 goats. Mzee has also invited Musalia to visit him because he has no problem with him. He wants Musalia to go there so that they can chart the way forward so it is a place where the country’s major political decisions are being made.

Musalia Mudavadi, a former vice president, is the opposition Amani National Congress (ANC) party leader

Political brokers

But former leader of Majority in the Senate Kipchumba Murkomen dismissed the residence as the “meeting ground for political brokers and wheeler dealers”.

He said: “The residence is just a den for deal-making. Those who meet there are clueless brokers who have nothing to offer the country. Individuals who meet there pretend to be discussing national issues while they only congregate to cut deals and push government tenders which they use to intimidate people to join the bandwagon. They also pretend to be close to the powers that be. This group is the cause of the problems facing the country.”

It was not lost to many that it is at Ildamat that Raila, Murathe and Atwoli held a meeting on April 13, setting the stage for the purge on allies of Deputy President William Ruto in the Jubilee Party’s highest decision making organ, the National Management Council, the National Assembly and the Senate.

It was reported that Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid took the centre stage of discussions, with majority of those present “resolving to ensure that his desired rise to the country’s top seat is nipped in the bud”.

The meeting is also said to have explored possibilities of forming a formidable alliance to bring together politically like minded individuals.

Those present at the meeting pointed to an emerging alliance to lead the onslaught against Ruto’s 2022 State House bid.

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Others in the April meeting included Orengo, Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi and ODM executive officer Oduor Ong’wen.

It is instructive that before leaving for Kajiado, Raila had met Senator Moi at the Karen residence of former Funyula MP Paul Otuoma. The three held a two-hour closed-door meeting that was said to have dwelt on Ruto’s presidential bid.

Atwoli would later confirm that the meeting had indeed tackled various issues including possible political realignments ahead of 2022.

“Though the meeting ended up with some strategies, it was meant to be a get together to celebrate Easter.

“After all, Raila has always been paying me visits because he is my brother-in-law while Murathe usually comes due to the friendship I had with his late father,” Atwoli said.

The trade unionist confessed that the 2022 succession politics, in particular Ruto’s political strategy, was discussed at length.

“What I can tell Ruto is that at the moment nobody is going to kick him out of Jubilee. He will leave Jubilee by himself because of his own political goofs.”

Commenting on possible political alliances, Atwoli said all avenues were being explored to ensure “Ruto does not become the next president of Kenya”.

“In the coming days you are going to see a lot happening on the political scene,” he concluded.

Murathe said though the caucus was specifically not meant to discuss Ruto’s presidential bid, it had “digressed into the subject”.

“Atwoli, who is my good friend, had invited us for lunch to celebrate Easter. But there is no way we could have avoided a topic that is apparently on everyone’s lips; Uhuru’s 2022 succession,” he said.

Hardly a month later, on May 29, and Ildamat once again came alive, this time bringing together at least 50 leaders from Western Kenya, led by Devolution CS Wamalwa, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka.

Conspicuously missing were ANC’s Mudavadi and his Ford Kenya counterpart Moses Wetang’ula.

Government position

“They were not part of this meeting, they did not attend, but… they are with us,” said Atwoli when asked to explain their absence.

It was during this meeting that Atwoli declared Oparanya and Wamalwa the Luhya community spokesmen in matters to do with sharing of government positions and the BBI agenda.

“These leaders will be negotiating with the national government for development and other communities, in forming a new and transformative Kenya that is all- inclusive,” said Tongaren MP Eseli Simiyu.

It was also during the meeting that Kakamega Senator Cleopas Malala and Navakholo MP Emmanuel Wangwe were picked to spearhead the community’s interests in parliamentary re-alignments following the purge on Ruto’s allies.

It was again not lost on observers that it did not take a week before the coup in Ford Kenya took place, with Wetang’ula being replaced by Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi.

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A similar attempt was made on Mudavadi, with Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi, a Raila ally, demanding that he (Mudavadi) immediately calls party elections which, he said, were long overdue. He did not, however, make any headway.

Come June 13 and Raila was back at Ildamat, this time to consolidate his troops in western Kenya ahead of anticipated BBI campaigns.

The meeting brought together some 40 legislators from the region, including Wamalwa and Oparanya who were tasked with spearheading efforts to consolidate the Luhya vote ahead of the next general elections.

Away from the high stakes politics, Ildamat also plays host to various delegations, ranging from trade unionists to the local Maasai who flock the home to pay homage to the Cotu leader.

It is not uncommon to run into Maasai morans delivering a goat to the Cotu boss, who is famed for his generosity to the local community, including offering bright but needy children education bursaries.

Addressing a BBI rally at Narok stadium in February, local senator Ledama ole Kina heaped praises on Atwoli who was present, saying; “This At woli who is my good friend has been living in the Maasai region for a long time but he has restricted himself to the rules and policies of the Maasai community. If he is looking for a leadership position, he goes to the Mulembe nation to look for it. He is even the one who has been telling me to tell the people that whenever he is interested in politics, he runs to Western region.”

Despite his well publicised contempt for Ruto, Atwoli is an equal opportunity host.

It is not uncommon to bump into some of the fiercely pro Ruto politicians among them MPs Didmus Barasa, Nelson Koech, Dan Wanyama and Bernard Shinali passing by Ildamat on a weekend to pay homage.

MPs, especially those sitting in the National Assembly Labour committee, are also frequent visitors.

At the height of a push by then Labour Cabinet Secretary Kambi Kazungu to push amendments to the law to kick Atwoli and Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) Executive Director Jacqueline Mugo from the NSSF board, several committee members trooped to Ildamat one Sunday afternoon.

Asked about their mission, the delegation leader, an outspoken MP from Kisumu County, bluntly responded; “Our work as MPs is to oversight, and just like you journalists, we have to get the other side of the story, that is why we are here.” Atwoli’s side of the story carried the day.

DUTY ROSTER

• Opposition leader Raila Odinga is perhaps the most conspicuous leader who makes many trips to the homestead regularly.

• Leaders from western Kenya have also trooped there on many occasions to craft deals.

• While the homestead is in Maasai land, Atwoli doesn’t seem to involve himself much in the areas politics.

MURKOMEN

The residence is just a den for deal making. Those who meet there are clueless brokers

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MANY PHOTOS of the spectacular retirement home Sarah Kabu gifted her husband on his birthday

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Kenya’s Bonfire adventures MD, Sarah Kabu did the unimaginable for her husband over the weekend, after making a multi-million purchase of a retirement home for her husband, a dream come true on his birthday.

The famous Jabo Jabo couple gave fans a look into their simple yet rich retirement home during the celebrations that went down in Olpajeta, Nanyuki.

Inside Kabus retirement home

The pair gave us a look of the home’s exterior, fitted with large glass windows as walls of the different rooms upstairs, each well furnished with rare exotic African furniture.

The Kabus on baecation

Surrounded with bushes and trees at a distance, the couple did not think much of having a fence around their home, open to all who would pay a visit, with a sign board at the entrance with the words “Welcome to The Kabus retirement home.”

The front yard graced the parking lot while the backyard would be where the couple hosted their social events. With long dining tables and outdoor canvas seats setting the mood for a communal feel, allowing us a view of the large projecting balcony the duo had to enjoy the priceless views of the wild.

Sarah gifts Simon Kabu dream retirement home

In the presence of close friends and family, Mr Kabu was treated to a magnificent birthday event by his wife, Sarah who made his dreams come true with the surprise of his dream retirement home in the wild.

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For Simon, as they drove through bushes and thickets, he first thought they were having a bush lunch only to his surprise to discover that his wife had brought to reality, his plans to own a private getaway in the wild when he needed to unwind from the city’s hustling.


The Kabus

Every time the couple would visit the Olpajeta conservancy, Simon would always wishfully admire “ningetaka kuretire hii place” but after Corona happened, his plans stalled. Hardly did he know that his wife was busy taking huge bank loans to give him his dream retirement home. What a love!

Have a look at the Kabu’s rich retirement home.

The Kabus

Kabus

Sarah &Simon Kabu

The Kabus getaway

Simon Kabu birthday

Mr Kabu birthday

Kabus’ retirement home

Inside The Kabus retirement home

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Young journalist who cried while interviewing President Uhuru Kenyatta identified

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The young journalist who was captured on video breaking down while interviewing President Uhuru Kenyatta in Mombasa on Sunday evening has been identified as 20-year-old Dennis Mudi from Kakamega.

A video of Mudi crying went viral and has been shared on the interwebs.

Mudi says he was overwhelmed by the presence of the head of state and could not contain his emotions.

Rare encounter with Uhuru

On Sunday evening, Uhuru broke away from his security team to mingle with small scale traders who are based at Mama Ngina Waterfront Park in Mombasa. Part of the crowd was Mudi. The President exchanged greetings with him and to Mudi’s surprise, Uhuru agreed to give an unscheduled interview for his online MK TV channel.

The interview was held at the park around 6.30pm on Sunday.

Uhuru has been in Mombasa on a low key visit, inspecting projects and his tour has been closed to most journalists.

The video clip shows President Uhuru Kenyatta casually dressed – wearing a cap and a face mask pulled beneath his chin. He attentively follows the tearful ramblings of Mudi, an MK TV channel journalist.

The young journalist had travelled from upcountry to interview small scale traders for his show ‘Hustle mtaani’ which airs on MK TV.

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“I was busy interviewing madafu and kachiri sellers when security people suddenly appeared and told people to sit and avoid unnecessary movement,” he says.

Mingling with traders

The President made an appearance without his security and started mingling with the traders; expressing interest in their wares and greeting them, to the surprise of all.

It was then that Uhuru noticed Mudi with his microphone and seeing that he obviously was not one of the traders, he approached him and started a conversation.

“I introduced myself as a journalist from Kakamega [who had come] to interview small scale traders for a show that we run at MK TV,” Mudi told Standard Digital.

Mudi says the President was very amused and genuinely pleased that he was giving the local traders a platform.

“He then surprised me by offering me an interview,” he says.

Dennis Mudi. [Courtesy, Standard]

After an emotionally charged interview which lasted nearly ten minutes, as Mudi was signing off, he became overwhelmed and broke down.

His composure dribbled out of him and he started losing it prompting the President to do his best to encourage the young man with nods and smiles as he patted his back reassuringly.

“I have a guest who is President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, It’s Unbelievable,,,,ooohh My God (sigh), he says repeating unbelievable over and over again.

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“I am very thankful …” he says followed by sobs repeatedly before a final wail as he is completely overwhelmed by emotion.

The President offers his shoulder and the young journalist leans on it as he is consoled by Commander of the Armed Forces of the country.

Hoping to meet the President again

Mudi told Standard Digital that after the rare meeting, he was offered transport by an aide.

“I was also invited to meet the president at Statehouse although the call has not come through yet. I am eagerly waiting,” he said.

He says that he cried the way he did because it was unexpected and overwhelming.

“I have been in journalism for only three months, interviewed many people mostly traders but never in my wildest dream did I ever think someday I would interview the president himself. It was so overwhelming at some point I just broke down,” he says.

Mbui who uses his phone to shoot his interviews had to be assisted by a member of the presidential security detail to film the interview for him.

He says that the president offered to give him an exclusive interview and assured him that he would help him develop his station.

He said: “The president was so friendly and down to earth. Like I said, It’s totally unbelievable!”

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BY SDE

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Mercy Masika calls out on Gospel artistes who have derailed the quality of gospel music

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Gospel singer Mercy Masika has deemed today’s Kenyan Gospel music as none inspiring and business-oriented, unlike some years back when singing for God was more intentional from a religious perspective.

Taking the matter to her Instagram page recently, the singer poured her heart out, stating today’s Gospel music has declined in quality, which undercuts the sole purpose of ministering to audiences. “The reason much of today’s music lacks inspiration and memorability is that people have blurred the lines and turned it into too much of a business,” she captioned.

The mother of two explained that some Gospel artistes often fail to remain true to their purpose of creating music. “It takes moral courage to remain true to inspire, impact and be true to who you are called to be,” Masika added. She went further to reiterate that music takes time to pay; she advised the younger generation of gospel musicians to remain authentic and avoid being led astray for monetary gains.

“Music often takes time to pay, but when it finally does, it pays very well. There’s a confidence that comes from being true,” she concluded. The award-winning musician could have been passing on a deliberate message to gospel-turned secular artistes who quit gospel music for greener pastures.

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A while ago, controversial artiste Bahati defended himself as to why he left the gospel music scene for secular. In an interview, the artiste revealed that the gospel music industry is “rotten” and has always been criticized for being controversial. Bahati said he no longer felt welcomed in the gospel scene. However, the singer made it clear that leaving the gospel industry doesn’t mean his faith and belief in God has been compromised.

Bahati.

“I was fought a lot in the gospel industry, but I knew I was not doing gospel music for the people; I was doing it for God. I have just separated myself from the gospel industry for a while but not from God. Christ and the Lord is my personal saviour,” he said. He added that his songs are meant for his audience who listen to secular music and those who love gospel music.

By SDE

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