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Who owns Kenya?

By Otsieno Namwaya

Kenya’s two former First Families and
the family of President Mwai Kibaki are among the biggest landowners in the

A residual class of white settlers and a group of former and current power
brokers in the three post independent regimes follow them closely while a few
businessmen and farmers, many with either current or past political
connections, also own hundreds of thousands of acres.

The extended Kenyatta family alone owns an estimated 500,000 acres —
approximately the size of Nyanza Province — according to estimates by
independent surveyors and Ministry of Lands officials who spoke on condition of

The Kibaki and Moi families also own large tracts of land though most of the
Moi family land is held in the names of his sons and daughters and other close
family members.

Most of the holders of the huge parcels of land are concentrated within the
17.2 per cent part of the country that is arable. The remaining 80 per cent is
mostly arid and semi arid land.

In fact, according to the Kenya Land Alliance, more than a half of the arable
land in the country is in the hands of only 20 per cent of the 30 million
Kenyans. That has left up to 13 per cent of the population absolutely landless
while another 67 per cent on average own less than an acre per person.

The building land crises in the country, experts say, will be difficult to
solve because the most powerful people in the country are also among its
biggest landowners.

The tracts of land under the Kenyatta family are so widely distributed within
the numerous members in various parts of the country that it is an almost
impossible task to locate all of them and establish their exact sizes.

During Kenyatta’s 15-year tenure in State House, there was an elaborate scheme
funded by the World Bank and the British Government, the Settlement Transfer
Fund Scheme, under which the family legally acquired large pieces of land all
over the country.

Among the best-known parcels owned by Kenyatta’s family, for instance, are the
24, 000 acres in Taveta sub-district adjacent to the 74, 000 acres owned by
former MP Basil Criticos.

Others are 50, 000 acres in Taita that is currently under Mrs Beth Mugo, an
Assistant minister of Education and niece of the first President, 29, 000 acres
in Kahawa Sukari along the Nairobi—Thika highway, the 10, 000 acre Gichea Farm
in Gatundu, 5, 000 acres in Thika, 9,000 acres in Kasarani and the 5, 000-acre
Muthaita Farm. These are beside others such as Brookside Farm, Green Lee
Estate, Njagu Farm in Juja, a quarry in Dandora in Nairobi and a 10, 000-acre
ranch in Naivasha.

The acreage quoted in this report is not extracted from official government
records — there are none and those that exist are scattered and some cases
incomplete — but are estimates based on close to a year of interviews with farm
staff, independent surveyors, Ministry of Lands experts and land rights NGOs.

Other pieces of land owned by the Kenyatta family include the 52,000-acre farm
in Nakuru and a 20,000-acre one, also known as Gichea Farm, in Bahati under
Kenyatta’s daughter, Margaret. Besides, Mama Ngina Kenyatta, widow of the
former President, owns another 10, 000 acres in Rumuruti while a close relative
of the Kenyatta family, a Mrs Kamau, has 40,000 acres in Endebes in the Rift
Valley Province.

It is understood that in the late 1990s, the Kenyatta family started
considering the possibility of disposing of parts of the land in Nairobi.

In the lead-up to the 2002 general elections, for instance, there were
indications that the family was considering selling the 100-acre piece of land
in Karen. But even with that, the Kenyatta family would still own a sizeable
part of Nairobi, such as the 1,000-acre farm in Dagoretti owned by Kenyatta’s
first wife Wahu.

It is also understood that part of the land on which Kenyatta and Jomo Kenyatta
Universities are constructed initially belonged the Criticos family. The
government bought the land from him in 1972 under the Settlement Transfer Fund

It is alleged, though there is little compelling evidence, that the land was
transferred to the Kenyatta family the same day Criticos sold it to the

Neither is it clear how much the family paid for it.

Land for the two universities was subsequently donated by the family.

Under President Kenyatta, most of the power wielders either formed or were
associated with land buying companies through which they acquired huge chunks
of land around the country, especially at the Coast and in Rift Valley.

They took most of the land previously owned by the former white settlers, which
had initially been earmarked for resettling those who had been turned into
squatters by the colonial land policies.

One of the most famous land buying companies was Gema Holdings.

Most of the people — including retired President Moi and his former Vice
President, Mwai Kibaki — who had considerable political influence in the
Kenyatta regime, were given the opportunity to buy as much land as they could.

One of President Kibaki’s earliest acquisitions is the 1,200-acre Gingalily Farm
along the Nakuru-Solai road. He bought it in the late 1960s.

And in the 1970s, Kibaki, who was then the minister for Finance under Kenyatta,
bought 10, 000 acres in Bahati from the then Agriculture minister Bruce
Mckenzie. Kibaki also owns another 10, 000 acres at Igwamiti in Laikipia and
10, 000 acres in Rumuruti in Naivasha.

These are in addition to the 1,600 acre Ruare Ranch that came to the limelight
when it caught fire last year.

Just next to Kibaki’s Bahati land are Moi’s 20, 000 acres although his best
known piece of land is the 1,600 Kabarak Farm on which he has retired. It is
one of the most well utilised farms in the area, with wheat, maize and dairy

The former President owns another 20, 000 acres in Olenguruoni in Rift Valley,
on which he is growing tea and has also built the Kiptakich Tea Factory. He
also has some 20, 000 acres in Molo.

He also has another 3, 000-acre farm in Bahati on both sides of the
Nakuru/Nyahururu road where he grows coffee and some 400 acres in Nakuru on which
he was initially growing coffee.

The former President also owns the controversy ridden 50, 000 acre Ol Pajeta
Farm—part of which has Ol Pajeta ranch in Rumuruti, Laikipia. Last year, the
family put out an advert in the press warning the public that some unknown
people were sub-dividing and selling it.

Land transactions are ongoing and some of these farms may have changed hands.


About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.


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