Money, power and politics in Ruto’s Weston Hotel land acquisition saga

The Weston Hotel on Langata road in Nairobi.

The Weston Hotel on Langata road in Nairobi in this picture taken on May 3, 2022. Two months after his cabinet suspension, Ruto walked into Equity Bank and charged the Weston land for Sh100 million on December 8, 2011.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Two months after his cabinet suspension, Ruto walked into Equity Bank and charged the Weston land for Sh100 million on December 8, 2011.
  • But after he discharged this loan, he moved to the Kenya Commercial Bank and charged the title for USD1.5 million and Sh350 million.

Wednesday, January 5, 1998. Just as people were busy returning from the Christmas break and smarting from a general election, somebody at the Lands office was busy hiving off public land near the Wilson Airport.

It was the first big business of the new year. The land belonged to the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.

The previous day, President Daniel Moi had been sworn in at Uhuru Park for a final term in office, having defeated Mwai Kibaki at the polls.

The Opposition, subdued by Kanu, was busy planning to file an election petition and the entire government machinery was busy preparing for a tumultuous year.

In the allocation, nay grabbing, of public plots, time and timing are of the essence.

In the letter of allotment, it was indicated that this was an unsurveyed plot on Lang’ata Road.

But it was not, and the Commissioner of Lands, Wilson Gachanja, knew that as well.

Welcome to the story of the controversial plot on which Deputy President William Ruto built his Weston Hotel.

When the allocation was being done, Ruto had just been elected to Parliament for the first time. He had not been sworn in yet.

As we all now know the narrative, from both Ruto and from the court records, the DP says he bought the land from an entity that had been allocated the land by the Commissioner of Lands.

Same address

The two entities that had been allocated the land were Priority Limited and Monene Investments Limited.

The address given in the letter of allotment was P O Box 62860, Nairobi, which is important.

This is the same address that is used today by Koilel Farm Ltd, whose directors are Ruto’s wife Rael Kimeto Chebet and his son Nicholas Ruto.

I am not sure that this is a coincidence or that he bought the company and its post office address.

The only two conclusions one can make is that Ruto might have owned either Priority Ltd or Monene Investments – or both.

The other conclusion is that these are briefcase companies that had no address and sought to use Ruto’s address.

What we can deduce through the timelines is that once this land was allocated, Gachanja delayed issuing the title and it was not until August 30, 2002, that Sammy Mwaita, who had been appointed by President Moi on December 2, 1999, to replace Gachanja, that he issued a title deed to Priority Ltd and Monene Investments Ltd.

The land was registered as LR No. 209/14372 and measured 1.7 acres.

August 2002 is also important. This was the month that President Moi was facing open rebellion in his party over his succession and Raila Odinga, George Saitoti, Joseph Kamotho, Moody Awori and Kalonzo Musyoka walked out of Kanu.

Time was running out and in three months, Moi was to exit State House.

That is the scenario in which the Commissioner of Lands issued the title deed on August 30, 2002, and had it registered on September 5, 2002.

Land transfer

It was not until June 2007 that the land was transferred to Weston Hotels Ltd.

This happened at a time of great political confusion during the Kibaki presidency.

Ruto was then a Kanu MP and was toying with the idea of switching to Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party of Kenya – which had been born out of the November 21, 2005 referendum.

Thus the transfer occurred some five months before the December 27, 2007, General Election.

But there is something else interesting about the company known as Priority Ltd.

This is the same firm that was involved in the Ngong Forest land scandal in which Ruto was charged with the acquisition and sale of public land to Kenya Pipeline Ltd for Sh272 million.

He was charged in 2004 together with Mwaita – the former Commissioner of Lands.

Others who were charged were Joshua Kulei, a powerful insider in the Moi presidency and his company, Sovereign Group.

Though the Ngong Forest case collapsed after the prosecution failed to take a statement from the main KPC witness, it showed the league in which Ruto was playing.

The 2007 election triggered post-election violence and this forced President Kibaki to form a coalition government with Odinga.

Ruto, then a senior member of ODM, was appointed minister of Agriculture before he was transferred over a maize scandal at the ministry.

Deputy President William Ruto during a Kenya Kwanza campaign rally in Embu county.

Deputy President William Ruto during a Kenya Kwanza campaign rally at Kithimu trading centre in Embu county on July 1, 2022. 

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

He was then moved to Higher Education where he served until he was dismissed in October 2011. He had been suspended in April over corruption allegations.

Sh100m loan

Two months after the suspension, Ruto walked into Equity Bank and charged the Weston land for Sh100 million on December 8, 2011.

It was a tricky time for Ruto since the International Criminal Court had named him one of the suspects in the post-election violence and the hearing of the confirmation charges had started in September 2011.

Ruto was able to pay the Sh100 million loan by October 2014.

By then, he was Deputy President of Kenya, having been sworn in on April 9, 2013.

But after he discharged this loan, he moved to the Kenya Commercial Bank and charged the title for USD1.5 million and Sh350 million.

He also did a further charge of Sh700 million on July 21, 2015, on the same property.

It is not clear whether this money was used for the construction but on July 20, 2015, Ruto’s Weston Hotel Ltd bought a property in Mombasa, Majestic Beach Resort, at a cost of USD 4.5 million (Sh534 million).

He then charged the same property for Sh700 million on the same day.

Single transaction

Perhaps the most interesting thing to note here is that all of these grew out of a single transaction on Lang’ata Road where the total amount paid for the plot when it was allocated was Sh409,290.

Back to the Ruto family’s Koilel Farm having the same address as the one for the firm that was allocated the Lang’ata plot — did the left hand sell to the right?

When the Weston saga first emerged, Ruto had denied ownership – and some people had presented themselves as the true owners.

The man who swears affidavits in court is apparently the hotel manager – the Florida University-trained Michael Nzile.

Weston is now a contested space. It is one of the landmarks of the excesses that have run through three presidencies.

In February 2019, the National Land Commission appeared to have concluded the matter with a gazette notice.

It acknowledged that “the subject parcel belonged to Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (and) that a letter of allotment issued to Priority Ltd and Monene Investment Ltd was irregular”.

It further found that “Weston Hotel are bona-fide purchasers without a notice of any defect in the title” and that “the land at the time of valuation was undervalued”.

The NLC also seemed to have thrown the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority under the bus and said that it had “lost an important asset in this case”. 

In the conclusion, NLC blamed the management of the authority then “for vacating the subject parcel without establishing if the alternative land was available” and the then-Commissioner of Lands and Minister of Lands for failing “to act on the irregular allocation of the parcel”.

Whether Ruto will ever give the land back is not known. He said during the recent presidential debate that he can account for all his land.

If he wins, that matter will rest there. If he loses, chances are that Odinga will try and wrest the land out of the DP’s grip. 

**

Postscript. Lee Njiru has written a very interesting book. I have read the excerpts and the revelations there is the sterner stuff that autobiographies are made of.

The good thing with such knowledge in the public domain is that one can now have a reference point on the Moi state.

I hope President Uhuru Kenyatta will write his memoirs before he forgets the inner details of his presidency.

We have heard some interesting anecdotes, like the day he wanted to abandon the ticket and the allegations which were made this week by Azimio Executive Director Raphael Tuju.

[email protected] @johnkamau1

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