Kenya: Joy, heartbreak as court finally shares out Koinange's multi-billion-shilling estate

Mbiyu Koinange’s widow Edda Wanjiru (right) and Koinange’s son David Njuno Mbiyu (left). Two widows of the former Cabinet minister and their children will benefit from his Sh17.4 billion estate.

(PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD)

There are new billionaires in town. After 35 long years of waiting, the court has finally shared out Mbiyu Koinange's vast estate among members of his family. Mr Koinange was a powerful Kenyatta-era Cabinet minister.

His two widows and their ten children were bequeathed the Sh17.4 billion estate, which straddles four counties.

But while the two widows and their children were happy with the court decision, this was not the case for two other women, who also claimed to have been Koinange’s wives and therefore wanted a piece of his estate. The women and their children walked away empty-handed after the court ruled that there was no proof they were married to the tycoon.

Koinange died on September 3, 1981, triggering a scramble for his vast estate that included over 5,000 acres of prime land in Nairobi, Kiambu, Nakuru and Mombasa as well as shares in hotels, agriculture and manufacturing industries, among others.

The patriarch’s first wife, Loise Mbiyu, and her children got a large piece of the estate bagging more than 2,500 acres. Ruth Mbiyu and her children secured 2,300 acres.

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But Margaret Njeri and Eddah Wanjiru, who had also claimed to be his widows, and their children, got nothing. The two women were said to have had contact with the deceased but never married him.

The property that was shared out included the 4,292-acre Muthera Farm in Mau Narok, Ehothia Farm (645 acres), Waihuthia (198 acres), Closeburn Estate in Kiambu (176 acres), Thirstine Plot (267 acres), Thimbigua in Runda (96 acres) and Ikinu Farm (11 acres), a building block on Biashara Street, four second-row beach plots, 14 blocks of go-downs in Mombasa, among other plots in Nakuru, Nairobi and Kiambu counties.

The shares are in Koinange Investments and Development Limited (32,000), Koira Ltd (948,480), Kenyattu (508), Limuru Dairy, ICDC, Elburgon Sawmill, Mbo-I-Kamiti, Gatatha Farmers Company Limited (165), BAT, Kenya Co-operative Creameries Limited, Kenya Planters Co-operative Union Limited, Horticultural Co-operative Union Limited, Theta Group Limited, Kenya Grain Growers Co-operative Union Limited, Oceanview Beach Hotel (11,000) and Oceanic Hotel in Mombasa.

The beneficiaries of the vast wealth are children from his first marriage namely David Njunu, George Kihara, Paul Mbatia together with their sisters Mary Wambui and Elizabeth Waruinu. Florence Wanjiku, Isaac Njunu, David Waiganjo, Solomon Kihara and Lenna Wanjiku, Koinange’s children with his second wife, also got a share of the pie.

Mr Kihara got the largest share of 853 acres, followed by Mr Njunu (803 acres) and Mr Mbatia (709 acres). Isaac Njunu got 635 acres whereas Mr Waiganjo was allocated 661 acres. Among the girls, Lenna got the lion’s share of the land with 617 acres followed by Ms Waruinu’s family, which got more than 290 acres of land.

Barbara Wambui (Ms Wanjiku's daughter) got 290 acres. Kihara's (deceased) daughter Angela Wambui got 290 acres while Ms Wambui's (deceased) daughter Stella Njeri got 281 acres. Road reserves gobbled up 221 acres. A further 11 acres are earmarked for a police station. Two acres will be set aside for a family cemetery.

The judge also evenly distributed, among Mbiyu’s family, the companies’ shares and directed them to sell the land in Lunga Lunga, Nairobi, to settle all the debts accrued by the estate. Lawyers for the administrators were ordered to account for the money the estate had accrued in Ecobank.

In the Succession Cause No: 527 of 1981, which was finally settled by Judge W Musyoka, the court was told that the deceased married two women; Loise and Ruth Damaris Mbiyu, and they sired him children ten children. However, there was controversy surrounding his relationship with Njeri and Wanjiru. 

According to court documents, the first woman divorced Koinange and married his brother Charles Karuga. She, however, insisted that she was married to him although they had parted ways.

Mend differences

The court heard that she married Koinange on August 8, 1976 under customary law and had been living in Mombasa since then but never set eye on the man until he passed away. However, the woman told the court that they had been living together since 1968.

She testified that although Koinange frequented Mombasa, he never visited her but he wanted to resolve their differences. Njeri told the judge that the deceased sent the then Mombasa District Commissioner to her four months before his death on September 2, 1981 to organise a reconciliation meeting but they never met as he passed away thereafter.

The woman testified that she knew Wanjiru, as they both lived in Mombasa. Njeri said the deceased would never have married Wanjiru although they (Mbiyu and Wanjiru) lived in the same house. She blamed Wanjiru, who was said to have been Koinange’s assistant, of denying her the opportunity to get back together with the man before he died. She stated that the fourth woman was just a mistress but could be regarded as a wife on account of her living with the deceased for a long time.

But the judge disagreed with Njeri’s story, saying that she did not clear the cloud hanging over her relationship with Koinange’s brother.

“The assertion by Margaret Njeri that she never had a relationship with Charles Karuga Koinange after her alleged husband’s death is hollow. The fact of that affair came out clearly in the proceedings cited above and I do not think any amount of denying it can change the facts,” Justice Musyoka said.

The judge also noted that Mr Karuga, three years after the death of his brother, had asked the court to appoint him as an administrator of the estate on behalf of Njeri.

“It is also curious that the initial proceedings in the record of January 12, 1984 reflect that Charles Karuga Koinange sought to be appointed administrator to represent the alleged third house of Margaret Njeri,” he noted.

Wanjiru said her children were born after the death of the former minister. Njeri testified that she saw her alleged “co-wife” pregnant at the time of Koinange’s burial but ruled out the possibility of the child being his as she was allegedly of mixed colour.

The baby she was carrying was Sylvia Wambui who was born on November 25, 1981. Her other three children Beatrice Wahu, Benjamin Njunu and Michelle Wangui were born in 1984, 1985 and 1993 respectively.

Njeri asserted that although the children born by Wanjiru were beautiful, the former minister could have never sired them.

The court heard that Wanjiru was married to one Harry Reginol and had her last three children with him. The judge ruled that they were not entitled to claim anything from the estate.

“Sylvia Wambui Mbiyu was born two  months after Koinange’s death. From the material placed before me, it can be concluded that there might have been a liaison between her mother, Eddah Wanjiru, and the deceased, which did not, in view of the evidence, amount to marriage. She cannot therefore be said to be a child born within wedlock,” the judge said.

He added: “As matters stand there is no proof that the said Sylvia Wambui was sired by the deceased, and consequently there is no basis upon which I can consider her to be an heir to the estate of the deceased.”

Justice Musyoka took away the powers to administer Koinange’s estate from Wanjiru and Njeri, and ordered that the former (Wanjiru) should return 11,000 Ocean View Hotel shares and a parcel of land in Kiambaa to the estate.

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Mbiyu Koinangelaw of successionfamily disputesproperty succession dispute Kenya