Tycoons who hold wealth of the county and wield power

The four-star Almond Hotel, owned by Mr Mahat Kuno Roble, is one of the landmarks of Garissa Town. Photo/JENNIFER MUIRURI

Just two families own and control most of Garissa’s wealth — and by extension wield immense political influence in the county.

Gen (Rtd) Mahmud Mohamed’s immediate family and a former detainee, Mahat Kuno Roble are synonymous with property in Garissa Town and the county in general.

Gen Mohamed rose to fame for having crushed the abortive 1982 coup by recapturing the then Voice of Kenya radio station from Kenya Air Force rebels.

He then rose to the pinnacle of the military, becoming Chief of General Staff, before retiring in 1996.

His children have extended the old man’s influence in the family.

Mr Roble was both a poet and labelled a troublemaker during the Kenyatta era.

For this, he was detained without trial along with Prof Ngugi wa Thiong’o in 1977.

There is no connection between Gen Mohamed and Mr Roble but the two families have built separate business empires nobody can rival in the near future.

Gen Mohamed owns many commercial buildings within Garissa Town, housing big businesses like leading Kenyan banks.

The general and his family also own houses and the 146-acre Maendeleo Farm on the banks of River Tana.

The general’s children have married into families of Who is Who in the county.

Dujis MP Aden Duale, who was sacked as assistant Minister for Livestock Development last week, is married to the general’s daughter.

Mr Duale and his brother, Noor Barre, have also built their own empire in the county.

They own Nomad Resort, the second upmarket hotel in the town besides other commercial ventures, which include the affiliate Nomad Hotel in Nairobi’s Eastleigh.

Mr Ali Buno Korane, a former Permanent Secretary for Information and Tourism is married to another of the general’s daughters.

Immense influence

He owns Mnara private schools and like his father-in-law has a farm on the southern part of Garissa Town, in the Tana valley.

He is currently aspiring for governorship of the county.

The general’s son, Dr Ibrahim Mohamed, is the chief executive officer of National AIDS/STD Control and Prevention, while the general’s younger brother, Mr Maalim Mohamed, entered the country’s history books when he became the first Cabinet Minister from arid and semi-arid lands in 1983, 20 years after Independence.

Although a soft spoken man always avoiding the glare of the media, the general wields immense influence on who becomes a leader in the county.

The county’s other wealth controller and opinion former, Mr Roble, rose from humble beginnings to become a tycoon.

Few would even remember that he suffered detention under the Kenyatta regime just as Prof Ngugi and Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.

From detention after President Moi had ascended to power, he began humbly as a merchant in supplies.

Soon after, he was calling the shots in that trade in Nairobi and Garissa.

Today, he owns Almond, a four star Hotel in Garissa, sitting on five acres with all the amenities available in a five star hotel in Nairobi or Mombasa.

It has an affiliate in Nairobi’s Central Business District, Jamiat next to the Jamia Mosque.

Mr Roble also owns substantial shares in blue chip companies on the Nairobi Stock Exchange and he has substantial property holdings with commercial buildings and rental houses in Garissa, plus a group farm in Mbalambala on the banks of the Tana that he has donated to local people.

In Kuno Location, he has built schools and other amenities while in Garissa, he owns the Waqaf high rise office block, the income from which he is giving to help pay for salaries to madrasa teachers.

Come next year’s first elections under the new Constitution, aspiring politicians in the county will be looking in the direction of these families for signals.

Time will tell which if them will become the king maker.