Revealed: DP William Ruto's multibillion shilling empire
Just after overthrowing his father and taking the reins as leader of the Titans, Kronos learned of a prophesy that suggested his fate would suffer a similar coup d’état at the hands of his children. He vowed to never let his children become powerful to challenge him for the throne. Kronos would devour any child his wife Rhea gave birth to. Eventually, Rhea managed to hide one child by handing the supreme titan a stone wrapped in cloth. The child, Zeus, would eventually overthrow his father.
Centuries later, if Greek mythology is to be believed, President Daniel Arap Moi ‘devoured’ his political children that were in the form of a lobby – Youth for Kanu ‘92.
YK92 was a group of young individuals who aggressively campaigned for Kanu using underhand tactics, such as bribery and intimidation.
Despite a lot of infighting that led to a split into two factions – one led by former Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo and another by former Kenya Football Federation boss Sam Nyamweya – the outfit grew into a formidable force.
Among those that stuck with Mr Nyamweya was an intelligent, determined and ambitious William Samoei Ruto, who was 26. He was the YK92 treasurer. Dr Ruto had just graduated top of his botany and zoology class at the University of Nairobi in 1990, and was employed as a teacher.
A year later, he married his college sweetheart, Rael Chebet Kimeto, better known as Rachel Ruto. When President Moi won the election, YK92 and Mr Jirongo had become so powerful that they appeared destined to outgrow Kanu and the Head of State.
YK92’s growth may have been an avenue to groom future Kanu leaders, but this also meant that the outfit wielded unprecedented power that made it a threat to President Moi, who always wanted to be the most powerful in the room.
Theft of public funds
The campaign period was akin to a gestation period for YK92, as President Moi’s re-election resulted in the group’s birth. It was time for President Moi, just as Kronos did, to eat his infants.
On June 12, 1993, the President disbanded YK92 after accusing the group of tarnishing Kanu’s name as some of its members were implicated in scandals involving theft of public funds.
Ironically, it was such theft that had been funding the group all along.
A few days later, Dr Ruto was arrested alongside two other YK92 officials and accused of working with veteran politician Kenneth Matiba to overthrow the government. While the accusations were baseless, it was clear President Moi wanted to show the young turks who was the boss.
The YK92 officials were released, and that was the start of Dr Ruto’s business and political career. As he made inroads in Kanu, he also got a share of the fringe benefits of being close to power. Ever since, he has been secretive in his business dealings.
The DP has, however, revealed a few of his businesses to the media due to pressure mounted on him by controversial events. Protests by Lang’ata Primary School pupils, their parents and teachers in 2015, for example, turned violent when police lobbed teargas to disperse crowds.
When rumours that Weston Hotel was allegedly trying to grab the school’s playground started flying, Dr Ruto’s close friend and former YK92 comrade Patrick Osero claimed ownership of the hotel.
But when pressure was mounted on the DP, he admitted to owning the hotel, which gave him a platform to deny the land grabbing accusations.
Airport View Housing Limited, a private company owned by Moi-era contractor Harbans Singh, eventually claimed ownership of the land at the centre of the protests. It subsequently sued the Ministry of Lands and the county government for claiming that the school owned the property.
On July 29, 1996, Dr Ruto incorporated Matiny Limited, which has mostly dealt in real estate and hospitality. By this time, the YK92 debacle was over for President Moi and Dr Ruto. The latter had started laying the groundwork to run for the Eldoret North parliamentary seat under Kanu, and was actively singing praises for President Moi and his administration.
It is not clear when the DP handed over the company to his wife Rachel and daughter Charlene Chelagat, but they are the current shareholders. Records from the Business Registration Service show that Rachel owns six shares in the company. Charlene owns one share. Rachel doubles up as the company secretary.
When City Hall dished out houses in Woodley Estate to influential politicians and businessmen who were in the Kanu government’s good books, the firm also benefitted.
The 103 units had been built to provide affordable housing to Nairobi residents, but were instead sold to unscrupulous individuals who rented them out at premium rates. Matiny Limited was among the beneficiaries as it was allocated a house that the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) valued at Sh20 million in 2019.
The beneficiaries of the scheme claimed to have legally bought the houses from City Hall. The process was, however, full of illegalities, the most crucial being lack of approval from the Ministry of Local Government, which was headed by William ole Ntimama.
EACC in 2020 recovered the properties after the High Court ruled that the sale was illegal. Mr Musalia Mudavadi, Dr Ruto’s co-principal in the Kenya Kwanza Alliance, was also among individuals allocated houses in Woodley.
James Reriani Gachagua, a brother of Dr Ruto’s running mate Rigathi Gachagua, also got a unit in the scheme. Other prominent individuals who got houses on the cheap were Mr Moi’s former personal assistant Joshua Kulei, veteran politician Joseph Mulu Mutisya, former Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister Mohammed Isahakia, ex-spy chief Noah Arap Too, former assistant police commissioner Dickson Kyanda and Swiss missionary Peter Meienberg.
Dr Ruto and Mr Kulei were among several individuals who conducted their business with City Hall using shadowy companies. In November 2018, the National Police Service notified over 100 companies that it would no longer lease houses from them for its officers.
Matiny Limited was among the firms notified as it emerged that it had since 2015 leased 170 apartments to NPS. The service made a policy shift by providing house allowances for some officers, and building apartments for others. Interestingly, one of the companies that has since bagged tenders to construct units for officers, Koto Housing Kenya Limited, is owned by the Kenyatta family.
Koto Housing has been awarded contracts to put up 2,000 units across the country and will earn at least Sh2.6 billion for the deal that marked the end of business between the police and several politicians.
Matiny Limited is also a minority shareholder of Weston Hotel. It owns 539 shares. Through individual members and Matiny Limited, the Ruto family owns majority shares in the hotel and makes key business decisions. Ms Ruto owns 15,013 shares, while Charlene Chelagat Ruto, the DP’s daughter, has 10,013 shares.
Charlene is also Weston’s Director of Public Relations and Branding, which means it is her duty to ensure the facility maintains a world-class appearance while keeping good relations with the public and the media.
Dubai-based Premier Group Holdings Limited owns 3,000 shares in Weston Hotel. The shareholders are, however, fighting attempts by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) to reclaim the land that hosts the hotel.
The High Court determined that the land was grabbed from the KCAA by two private firms – Priority Limited and Monene Investments – before being sold to Weston in 2007. While Weston wants the court to allow it to compensate KCAA, the state agency wants a repossession order.
Weston has claimed in court that it has borrowed Sh1.2 billion from KCB Bank with the contested land as security and that repossession will deal the hotel a big blow in repaying the debt. Aside from hosting hundreds of overnight guests each year, Weston is among the most sought after establishments by corporates looking to host conferences.
Weston is also expanding its business with the construction of the Dolphine Hotel in Mombasa, an indication that business is good for the Ruto family. The Dolphine Hotel’s construction has, much like its parent firm, courted controversy as it emerged in 2018 that the facility had encroached on sea land while blocking access to a public beach.
Inspections by Nema, Mombasa County and local activists have, however, revealed that the irregularities were resolved.
Mombasa County and Nema have since given the greenlight construction to be completed, which is estimated to have cost the Rutos about Sh600 million.
Dr Ruto’s business empire also stretches into the insurance industry, where he is a minority shareholder at Amaco with 50,000 shares. The DP owns the shares through his Yegen Farms Limited.
Yegen rears poultry in Dr Ruto’s home in Sugoi, Uasin Gishu County. The DP has previously stated that he rears 200,000 chicken and sells eggs worth Sh1.5 million each day. Four people were in 2018 arrested for stealing 10 crates of eggs from the farm.
Dr Ruto’s close friend and ally, Silas Kibet Simatwo, is the majority shareholder at Amaco. Mr Simatwo owns 190,600 shares in the company, some of which he holds through Vomorono Limited.
Other Amaco shareholders are Linus Kipngetich (190,000 shares), Amos Kipkorir Biwott (189,400), Risto Sievert (140,000), Alena German (130,000), Jourbert & Borman Limited (90,000), Kohlberg Flenders Limited (90,000) and Ritah Tebasiima (130,000).
The insurance firm has individual and corporate clients and has also bagged many state contracts. Despite facing multiple insolvency petitions in the last five years all hinged on its notoriety in failure to pay claims, Amaco has still managed to win lucrative government deals.
The High Court last year quashed a move by the Public Procurement Review and Administrative Board to cancel a Sh190 million insurance tender that Amaco had won to provide cover for motorcycles owned by Nairobi County.
The insurer has also provided cover for institutions like Kirinyaga University, Mandera County and the Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa worth millions.
The Rutos also own Koilel Farm Limited, which operates from their 430-acre Sugoi land. Koilel Farm sells maize to the National Cereals and Produce Board. It was among 12 firms that were investigated by EACC in 2018 over alleged fraud in selling of maize to NCPB.