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My dramatic encounters with Moi

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Previously, I have told in this column about my one-on-one exchange with President Moi. It wasn’t a friendly one and I narrowly escaped roughing-up by the presidential guards.

It happened in Njoro of the present-day Nakuru County at the height of politically instigated ethnic killings in January 1998. The President had just finished addressing a public rally and came where journalists were standing to lecture us on why we should be “patriots and love our country”.

As he made to leave, I shot at him a question: “Mr President, is Kenya not slowly but surely sliding the path of the 1994 Rwanda genocide?”

He wasn’t amused, prompting his bodyguards to move menacingly forward ready to pounce on me and “teach me good manners”. The President stopped them just as they were about to whisk me away.

In contrast to that first encounter, the next three occasions I met him were friendly and I came to know the other side of the old man.

Away from the trappings of power and protocols, he struck me as a disarming father-figure, one quick at playing on peoples’ psychology — and yes, generous to a fault.

Not long after the hostile encounter in Nakuru, Mr Wilson Chepkwony (may God rest his soul in eternal peace) was appointed the new Comptroller of State House.

Pleasant, honest men were a rare commodity in the Moi regime. Mr Chepkwony was among the few. I came to know him when he was Kiambu District Commissioner.

Shortly after his appointment as Comptroller, I bumped into him at a city hotel. He was pleased to see me and said he’d be inviting me to the House on Hill when an opportunity arose. I forgot about this promise until a week to Kenyatta Day of 1998 when a white envelope addressed to me landed at my desk.

Inside, I found an invitation card emblazoned with the national flag and coat-of-arms. It read: “On the 46th commemoration of the Kenyatta Day, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Kenya and Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces has the pleasure to invite you to a State luncheon and thereafter a garden party at the grounds of State House, Nairobi.”

Enclosed also was a car sticker indicating where to park inside State House grounds and a two-line handwritten note from Mr Chepkwony to inform me the invitation had come from him.

In State House invitations, a luncheon is reserved for select VIPs who join the Head of State for a meal in the dining room. The more “common” garden party invitation, is where all other people — including the media and the traditional dancers — gather for refreshments and are later joined by the President and other dignitaries who sit at the presidential dais.

In my case, I was to dine with the President and his special guests and later sit at the dais in the garden.

I, however, felt it would be awkward sitting on the “other side” away from my journalist colleagues. There was an even bigger problem. I worked for an opposition leaning newspaper and occasionally had, in the course of my work, crossed swords with some big names in government. I imagined how such people would react to seeing me.

I telephoned Mr Chepkwony, thanked him for his kind gesture, but told him about my reservations and why I was declining his invitation.

“Look, I have cleared your invitation where it matters. Anybody harassing a guest of the President inside State House would be in for a real firestorm,” he told me with the added assurance that he would place me on a table where I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable or give goose pimples to those I sat with.

“I’ll be coming,” he said.

President Moi played the perfect host on such occasions. He’d be the first to enter the dining room and stand at the end of the long corridor to shake hands and personally welcome every guest. As I approached, I didn’t expect the President to recognise me and was surprised when he said: “Welcome young man, I was told you’re coming.”

“Thank you very much, Sir, for the invitation,” I stammered as I quickly moved on to let him usher in the next guest.

True to his word, the Comptroller had placed me in good company in a table of four. With me were women leader Mrs Zipporah Kittony, Catholic Bishop Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki, and South African High Commissioner to Kenya Griffiths Memela. Typical of diplomats, the South African envoy was pleased to sit with a journalist and immediately we got into a conversation.

But what I dreaded happened at the end of the meal as we followed the President in a procession to the State House gardens.

I came eyeball to eyeball with a prominent Kanu functionary whose path I had crossed sometimes back after publishing a story that he’d been overpaid for goods supplied, and others not supplied, to a State corporation.

He gave me a cold handshake as his face furrowed to make it clear that were the circumstances different he would have used the nearest tree to hang me.

My next one-on-one with President Moi came a few weeks before his exit from State House in December 2002.

He was in an intense campaign to have his handpicked Kanu candidate Uhuru Kenyatta elected to succeed him. But all indications were that the opposition was unstoppable.

One morning, Mr Joseph Kaguthi, a long-serving Moi-era civil servant who is well-known to me, asked for my journalistic perspective on how the Uhuru campaign could be saved, including from a seemingly well-coordinated media onslaught from the opposition.

I replied that perhaps the best thing to do was to pick out specific issues the opposition was using to attack the ruling party’s candidate and counter them with facts and figures.

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“What is making candidate Uhuru an easy punching bag for the opposition?” he asked.

“Well, his age and perception that he is merely a Moi project with only a surname in his quiver!” I replied.

After a pause, he asked whether I could respond to those issues in a campaign booklet. I told him it would be difficult since I was in formal employment and not allowed to publicly identify with any candidate. However, I told him I could partly do the booklet in my private time with the help of a media consultancy owned by a friend.

“That’s fine,” he said. “Drop the outline in my office in the morning.” Hours after he received the outline, he called to ask me to be ready for a meeting with “the principal” at six in the evening the following day. I assumed “the principal” was Mr Kenyatta.

Come the appointed hour, I linked up with Mr Kaguthi at the agreed venue on Nairobi’s Ngong Road. Once inside his car, he said, to my surprise:

“I suppose you know we’re going to meet the President.”

When I told him I assumed “the principal” was the candidate, Mr Kaguthi responded:

“No, I meant the President. He is the chairman of the party (Kanu), so he is the principal. But anyway, you don’t have to worry.”

He assured me that all I needed to do was take President Moi through, “just as you have put it in writing”.

Unlike the State House, Mr Moi’s city private residence, Kabarnet Gardens, is homely and friendly. Except for two uniformed and armed GSU officers at the barrier just off the main road to Kibera slums, I saw no other officer anywhere in the expansive compound.

The only odd thing is that the two-floor building looks more like an office block than a residential house.

We were received at the outer veranda by a person whose face I recognised to be that of the President’s notorious personal assistant Joshua Kulei. I was ushered into one of the many rooms adjacent to the expansive lounge as Mr Kulei and Mr Kaguthi proceeded on the winding corridor.

I was hardly seated when a uniformed chef walked in with food in a tray. The portions in the plate were the “prescriptions” you get from a nutritionist. A piece of ugali-wimbi, the size of a folded-fist, three pieces of red meat — I counted them — a piece of fillet fish, and generous serving of mixed vegetables. For a chaser, there was a jug of hot water, honey and pieces of lemon.

I swept my plate clean and had just poured myself a glass of hot water when the door flung open. In came the President with Mr Kaguthi in tow. He was casually dressed in a flowing shirt, minus the trademark fimbo ya Nyayo.

“Welcome young man,” the President said as he shook my hand and asked me to sit next to him. I had been wondering how to address him when finally ushered into his presence, but his fatherly, disarming presence eroded all that and I found myself addressing him only as “Mzee” which he seemed comfortable with.

He asked me to take him through the outline of the Uhuru campaign booklet I had in mind, and attentively listened as I did so. He liked the idea and asked that I do a sample booklet for him to see.

Without asking me how much it would cost, he pulled a bundle of notes from the pocket of his trousers and handed it to me.

“I am sure that will be enough for the job,” he said.

Within a week, I was ready with the sample booklet. But Mr Kaguthi happened to be out of the country. Because of the urgency of the project, I requested prominent businessman and Kanu politician Stanley Githunguri to get my appointment to take the completed work to the President.

He got it and we were requested to be at State House for a 6.30am the following day. The President was great in keeping time and we were ushered into his office about ten minutes before the appointed time. He was pleased to see the finished work.

“How many do we print and what is your fee?” he asked. I suggested to him we start with 50,000 copies, and showed him the stamped quotation of printing cost from the well-known printers, Colourprint Ltd. To it, I attached invoice on my professional fee, all which was added up to a modest seven figure.

“How much discount do you give me?” he asked. “Your Excellency, I will give 10 per cent on my fee but the printing cost is fixed by the printer.” “All right,” he said and excused himself to the next room. He came back with a briefcase which he handed to me as he said. “Well, I have given you what you asked for and added something small for fuel.”

It occurred to me that the President’s generosity may not all have been to buy political support, but also had to do with something I saw in the generation of my own father who believed that you didn’t visit somebody’s home and leave empty-handed.

On the way from the State House, Mr Stanley Githunguri, who accompanied me remarked: “You must have surprised the President by billing him the exact cost and carrying supporting documents. He is used to dealing with crooks!”

I didn’t tell him this, but even though I am no saint and have no allergy for money, I have always tried my best to obey the eighth Commandment as was taught to me in Sunday school.

Postscript: I still retain as a souvenir the briefcase given to me by the President that day — only that it has never been re-filled and remains empty.

Happy birthday, Mzee Moi!

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General

Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’

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Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.
BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.
It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.
BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.
The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.
He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.
In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  
BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.
The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.
The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.
It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.
The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.
It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”
This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.
The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.
And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.
“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.
BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.
“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.
A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.
“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.
CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.
This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.
For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.
In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.
Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 
The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.
Criminal culture
In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).
The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.
This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.
Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.
“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.
These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.
“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.
BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).
Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).
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Tracking and monitoring motor vehicles is not new to Kenyans. Competition to install affordable tracking devices is fierce but essential for fleet managers who receive reports online and track vehicles from the comfort of their desk.

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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –

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Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

Read: Ministry of Agriculture Apologizes After Sending Out Tweets Portraying the President in bad light

Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

Read Also: Galana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme To Undergo Viability Test Before Being Privatised

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

Read Also: DP Ruto Wants NCPB And Other Agricultural Bodies Merged For Efficiency

Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

Email your news TIPS to [email protected] or WhatsApp +254708677607. You can also find us on Telegram through www.t.me/kahawatungu

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard

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Deputy President William Ruto will next month take his ‘hustler nation’ campaigns to his main rival, ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard, in an escalation of the 2022 General Election competition.

Acrimonious fall-out

Development agenda

Won’t bear fruit

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