Muhoho Kenyatta: Smooth operator who controls purse strings

DP William Ruto with Muhoho Kenyatta, President Uhuru’s younger brother, during a celebration to mark 50 years of Muhoho High School in Kiambu County in July 2015. [File, Standard]

Dwarfed by three bottles of soft drinks and a drinking glass with a straw, the three-year-old boy watched keenly as his elder brother blew out the seven candles on the cake. The grand old man was dressed for the occasion, in rare pin-stripped three piece suit complete with a pocket handkerchief.

All attention was directed at the birthday boy, Uhuru, and Jomo Kenyatta and three other adults silently admired the proceedings.

It must have been at this tender age that Muhoho Kenyatta learnt to operate from the background, without attracting too much attention.

Five decades later, the bespectacled younger brother has grown into a tall man who is a master of effacing himself.

To his closest friends, Muhoho Kenyatta is simply MK. To the employees of the many companies in the Kenyatta business empire, he is simply known as Chairman.

Grab a trolley

The Sunday Standard was told of instances when he literally walked past a battery of journalists, into the boardroom of Mediamax on Kijabe Street without many journalists recognising him or feeling his presence.

They only learnt later that the man who had passed right under their noses was indeed President Uhuru Kenyatta’s kid brother.

Some sources intimated that so discreet is MK that he is one of the few top executives who can stroll into a supermarket, grab a trolley and proceed to the shelves, pick items, walk to the till, pay for them and walk out without a soul in the building realising that he has been in the place.

A journalist who has interacted with MK whom he describes as the engine driving the vast Kenyatta business empire, recalls how the man waltzed into Bomas of Kenya on August 9 last year right under the noses of journalists, spent hours in the hall, without cameras clicking away.

As Kenya teetered on the brink and politicians squabbled over the presidential polls, the photo journalists deployed at the polls nerve centre had no idea that Muhoho was in the house.

“He arrived at midnight and found NASA (opposition leaders) had already set up camp with computers and laptops. He was accompanied by Jomo Gecaga,” the journalist recalls.

Muhoho appeared concerned that the NASA team had been allowed into the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission portal from where they were verifying results. He consulted the Jubilee IT team and confronted some IEBC officials.

Only after he was satisfied that NASA was not being given undue advantage did he settle down, chatting with some of the Jubilee politicians as the presidential election results trickled in. He left at the break of dawn.

One of the few other occasions when Muhoho has come out in what may be construed as a political forum was when his older brother was fighting for his freedom in 2013 after he was charged at the International Criminal Court.

At that time, the family matriarch, Mama Ngina Kenyatta would mobilise family members to pray for Uhuru and Muhoho would join them. Even though he might be seen as a recluse, those who know him say he is in charge of the family business and chairs the boards of all companies in the vast Kenyatta conglomerate that has interests in the dairy, banking, insurance and hospitality industries.

Without ceremony

Timothy Ngugi, who once worked at Brookside Dairies, one of the companies associated with the Kenyatta family, says that for five years he was an employee of the Juja-based firm, he saw Muhoho only once.

“I am sure he used to come but I saw him once. He came without ceremony, accompanied by his mother and inspected the factory,” Ngugi says.

“There was no fuss about his coming or going. We went on with our business as usual.”

A source who attended a meeting by all the country’s CEO’s at State House in May this year recalls how Muhoho came in unannounced and sat at the back.

“All the other CEOs had their names on their seats, but when he came, he just sat at the back and he was not introduced to the other Kenya Private Sector Alliance members. “He was at ease and interacted freely with those who sat near him,” the source said.