Daniel Arap Moi

The late President Daniel Arap Moi.

| File Photo

The unending troubles in Moi’s multibillion empire

What you need to know:

  • In Nairobi, the Moi family is still fighting over land in Ruaraka, which involves three buyers.
  • Another case that has exposed the late President involves an Eldoret family, fighting over 53 acres.

Along the Kabarnet-Tenges Road, Sacho High School stands out at the edge of Kipngochoch forest.

Among the properties controversially owned by former President Daniel Moi, the 'private' school stands out as one of the unresolved issues in the multi-billion-shilling empire Moi built during his 23 years in power.

"As a teacher, I regard these model schools as my special laboratories for experiment in education and youth transformation," Moi had told his biographer, Andrew Morton.

But almost four years after his death, court battles for this slice of former President Moi's empire seem not to end as the fate of Sacho High School and other properties continue to be entangled in controversies.

Sacho High School in Baringo County

Sacho High School in Baringo County.

Photo credit: File

Moi empire is still troubled by court cases ever since his Kabarak neighbour went to court to recover his land.

This week, a Nakuru court asked elders who claim that Sacho was a public property, set up in 1982 through fundraising by Sacho residents, to go to the Lands Court – rather than the Constitutional Court, where they had sought judicial intervention.

Justices Rachel Ngetich, Teresia Matheka and Hillary Chemitei said that the Constitutional Courts lack jurisdiction to hear land issues.

The elders have claimed that the land on which the school stands was part of Kipngochoch forest, degazetted under legal notice No 356 of 1995. Their argument is that they also donated part of the land and have put a legal argument that public land can only be alienated for public not private use.

While Moi was once highly regarded in the Rift Valley – and the Sacho backyard where he spent his political years – the case has opened on the power relations between the former President and the locals.

Part of the evidence was that Sacho was registered as a public institution on January 25, 1985, and a registration certificate G/A386/85 was issued.

With that, the court was told, it had received government funding and teachers from the Teachers Service Commission. But the School Trustees argue that Sacho is by Sacho High School Trust under a Trust Deed dated July 17, 1985.

But the elders allege that Moi, as a former chairman of the board, duped the Sacho community and acquired the school for his benefit and profit by turning what they thought was a public school into a private entity – now part of his empire. Despite that, they said the school continued to receive State funding and TSC teachers.

Sacho High School

Sacho High School in Baringo County.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Triple sales

In Nairobi, the Moi family is still fighting over land in Ruaraka, which involves three buyers who allege that Moi sold the same parcel to them.

This month, Equity Bank CEO James Mwangi appeared in court seeking to recover a property he claims to have bought from Moi for Sh300 million. Mr Mwangi told the court he paid a stamp duty of Sh12 million to the Ministry of Lands. T

he property is also claimed by United States International University-Africa (USIU-A) and businessman George Kiongera's Maestro Connections Health Systems Limited, claiming Sh1.6 billion for the land and costs incurred since 2016. He says he paid Moi Sh500 million.

Moi died before he could appear in court to untangle the triple sales.

Another case that has exposed the former President involves an Eldoret family, fighting over 53 acres alleged to have been taken from them by Moi and sold to sugar billionaire Jaswant Rai.

In 2019, an Environment and Land Court judge Anthony Ombwayo ruled that Moi irregularly took over the land from the late ex-chief, Noah Kipngeny Chelugui, and ordered Moi and Rai to pay Chelugui's widow, Susan, Sh1 billion as compensation accrued over the years.

The case is now at the Supreme Court, where it has attracted interest after attempts by the executor of Moi's will, senior counsel Zehrabanu Janmohamed, to overturn the decision was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in July last year.

While Moi has had a string of losses in court, he also won in 2017 against a group of 248 Samburu herders who claimed ownership of 17,105 acres in Laikipia North.

The Samburu had accused him of transferring the Eland Downs, also known as Kabarak Farm, to the Kenya Wildlife Service for Sh400 million in 2011. The herders said the ancestral land was later transferred to Africa Wildlife Foundation (AWF) without considering what would happen to them.

Former President Daniel arap Moi leaves the AIC Kabarak Community Chapel

Former President Daniel arap Moi leaves the AIC Kabarak Community Chapel after attending a church service on April 27, 2014. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

That Moi also turned against his business friends was contained in the case by his former business partner, the late Stephen Mwangi Muriithi, who was detained and his properties taken away. While the High Court had awarded Muriithi Sh1.9 million for his detention and loss of properties, this was later overturned by the Supreme Court.

Muriithi, a former deputy director of intelligence, had sued Moi for depriving him of his properties, including land, buildings, and shares in three companies, where they were allegedly business partners. The Supreme Court held that Muriithi should have sued the State rather than Moi for illegal detention as the violation was committed against him was by the State.

Surprisingly, Muriithi never sued the State: "For reasons unknown to us, [Muriithi] has never sued or even sought to join the Attorney General or any other State organ to these proceedings.

We are, therefore, faced with considerable difficulty on how to apportion liability …against a person or agency that has never been party to these proceedings."

For her part, Justice Njoki Ndungu, in a dissenting opinion, argued that the Supreme Court should not allow Moi to get away from personal liability – even when he was a direct beneficiary of Muriithi's detention: "It is important for the State to be consistently aware that past conduct of its officials and agents will no longer remain unpunished. Kenya must not return to those dark days. This Court should always be a temple of justice for victims of historical injustices, and justice must be seen to be done in the eyes of the victim."

In June this year, the Supreme Court revoked the title deed of a 1.2-acre public land in Nyali Beach, issued 34 years ago, ruling that the document was illegal and irregular since the parcel was a public open offshore space reserved for a road and not private land.

Moi had been allocated the land on November 23, 1989, by the former Commissioner of Lands Wilson Gachanja during the land-grabbing spree of the 80s and 90s.

While Moi had transferred the land to Bawazir and Co (1983) Ltd (and later sold to Dina Management Limited in October 2006 for Sh18 million) the court declared that all the transactions were illegal since the land was "not available for alienation [to Moi] or for further alienation."

Dina went to court after the County government of Mombasa seized the land. "Having found that the first registered owner (Moi) did not acquire title regularly, the ownership of the suit property by Dina Management Ltd thereafter cannot therefore be protected under Article 40 of the Constitution,” Justices Mwilu, Smokin Wanjala, Njoki Ndung’u, Isaac Lenaola and William Ouko said.

[email protected]; @johnkamau1