Powerful individuals in the government should be investigated and brought to justice over the murder of Maasai land activist Moses ole Mpoe – who was executed in cold blood in Nakuru four years ago – the widow of a former powerful Cabinet minister has said.
The claim was made by Mrs Eddah Wanjiru Mbiyu, the widow of Mr Mbiyu Koinange — a power baron and confidant of Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta.
Mrs Mbiyu was this week acquitted for the murder of Mr Mpoe, a case that has been in court since 2010.
In an interview with the Sunday Nation following her acquittal, alongside her stepson David Njunu and five others, Mrs Mbiyu alleged that the power men, who she did not name, assassinated Mr Mpoe as part of a grand scheme to purchase the 4,000-acre Muthera Farm belonging to the Koinange family for sale to the government at astronomical profits.
Details would later emerge in court that those who wanted to buy the farm had offered Sh214 million, but had planned to sell it to the government for at least Sh1 billion for the resettlement of internally displaced persons, mostly from the 2007-2008 post-election violence.
JUSTICE NOT SERVED
Shortly before the death of ole Mpoe, the High Court in Nakuru had issued an order restraining him from managing the farm, but the court order, according to evidence in court, could not be served on the land activist due to collusion and rivalry among the family members.
“Justice has not been served and will not unless the powerful people in government who were orchestrating this charade because they wanted illicit benefit from land transactions face the law. I would only say justice has been done if the people who are known and who sponsored the killing are brought to justice,” Mrs Mbiyu said.
In a case that smacks of big money, unbridled greed, betrayal, backstabbing, dark scheming and blood spilling, Mrs Mbiyu said she was set up by senior police and provincial administration officers.
She said Mr Mpoe was a former employee in the Koinange estate and they had lived peacefully as neighbours with the Maasai community and it would have been unthinkable for her to plan to harm him.
“I hadn’t seen Mpoe for about a year before he died. But we had spoken on phone when he was complaining of too many GK (government) vehicles around the area. Mpoe’s position was that IDPs should not be resettled there.
His was Maasai nationalism and he was in trouble because he was blocking IDP resettlement,” Mrs Mbiyu said.
LONGEST RUNNING CASE
At the interview she appeared obviously relieved, resplendent in an ankle-length kitenge dress and without the sunglasses she characteristically wore to court in the three years she has been battling murder charges.
Mrs Mbiyu believes the powerful individuals, who saw her as an obstacle to the obscene profits they hoped to make and had threatened her, pulled the strings to ensure she was in Nakuru on the day ole Mpoe was executed in cold blood.
The plan, she claims, was to lock her up to allow the sale of the land. Mrs Mbiyu is one of the four administrators of the controversial Koinange estate, which has been in dispute for the last 34 years — making it one of the longest running cases in Kenya.
By conservative estimates, the estate is thought to be worth at least Sh10 billion.
To place her near the scene of the shooting, she believes, she would be sent back and forth between government offices in Nakuru and Njoro where the Koinange family had been seeking help in keeping peace at the farm where trespassers were herding and farming wheat.
“They promised me that I would rot in jail for at least three years and by that time, the land would have changed hands and they would have moved on with their business,” she told the Sunday Nation from her Nairobi home.
A FAILED SCHEME
But as it would turn out, the grand scheme did not roll out as intended. In any event, and as the court would find three years later, the prosecution presented a case with such gaping holes that it would hopelessly collapse at the feet of the prosecutors.
Now acquitted and with the burdensome days behind her, she cries out for justice: That the real killers of ole Mpoe should be vigorously pursued.
Ole Mpoe had worked at the farm as a supervisor for about three years. But he also had another streak that may have attracted his killers.
He was spearheading Maasai nationalism that demanded the return of the land — if indeed the government wished to buy and distribute it to the public.
“Mpoe had no problem with us as a family. He had worked for us. His son Raphael was even one of our witnesses in this murder trial. There is no way that family believed that I could have harmed him. There was no way I could have harmed him,” Mrs Mbiyu said.
Mr Koinange had four wives and Mrs Mbiyu is the youngest. She admits that before the ordeal, the family had plans to dispose of the Muthera Farm to settle debts owed to the estate. An offer was made by a company belonging to a (now) governor, in 2006.
“We did not know at the time that the company belonged to him but it turned out that he was the buyer. As it was, we settled for Sh214 million. The company gave us Sh21 million in advance and a guarantee from Charterhouse Bank for the balance.
But the bank was closed two days later before we could even make good the transaction,” Mrs Mbiyu said.
Since the company could not proceed with the transaction, the deal was called off.
But trouble began in 2009 as the government sought land to resettle IDPs. Mrs Mbiyu says the interest in the farm heightened even though the property was no longer on sale.
“By then, the estate had disposed of another property and settled debts,” she said. “We were no longer interested in selling.” According to her, brokers had already offered to government officials the land for about Sh1 billion and insisted the family sell off for Sh214 million.
“You can see there was about Sh800 million to be made,” she said.
Mpoe’s killing would also bring her harrowed experiences, she had never imagined since the death of her husband in 1981. Of these was a day detectives raided her house looking for evidence without a warrant.
“They harassed the househelp and the guard. They nearly burnt the househelp with hot porridge as they turned everything upside down. She eventually quit her job very distraught,” Mrs Mbiyu said.
She adds that on another occasion, they raided the house while she was away and found her daughter, a high school student. “She was then in Form Six (In the British education system) and even she was arrested. It took my lawyers to have her released,” said Mrs Mbiyu.
The most trying moment for her as the case dragged on was when she was unable to attend to her children’s schooling needs out of the country because she had to deposit her passport with the courts as the case wore on.
“I was unable to take my daughter to the University in London to make sure she got comfortable after she had been admitted. I was unable to attend my son’s graduation. He has a master’s degree.
“Those were the lowest moments for me,” said Mrs Mbiyu. She, however, said she has soldiered on with the solid support of her children and “the numerous prayers by people of God and the backing of many friends and relatives”.
“After I was acquitted I received calls from all over including London and America,” she said.
Being the priciest among the assets of the estate, Muthera Farm and the multi-billion-shilling city plot next to Reinsurance Plaza, have been the most controversial of all the property owned by the Koinanges. Suits and counter-suits have been filed in court, but none has been resolved.
After he was appointed by the court to manage the urban assets of the estate following the death of his brother Isaac Njunu, Mr Kihara, in his maiden visit to the farm, survived death narrowly after he was viciously attacked by pastoralists who had invaded the land.
“My fingers were amputated, my stomach was slit, and I sustained other injuries. It’s just by the grace of God that I survived the ordeal to tell the tale,” Mr Kihara would later say.
Mrs Mbiyu says that she is optimistic the long case, spanning over three decades, over the distribution of the estate will be settled in the coming year and bring relief to the family.
“When the distribution is completed, there will be much relief because all the beneficiaries can then make individual choices about what to do with the property that will be distributed to them.
Outsiders have caused us much grief but that should soon be over,” she said.