The billionaires behind Uhuru, Raila campaigns

Presidential aspirants Raila Odinga (NASA) and Uhuru Kenyatta (Jubilee).

Wealthy businessmen and powerful lobbies have lined up billions of shillings to fund political campaigns as the race for the presidency enters the home stretch.

With the battle shaping up to a duel between President Uhuru Kenyatta and NASA’s Raila Odinga, the Friends of the Jubilee Foundation, a lobby that support’s the President’s re-election bid held a fund-raising dinner in support of Jubilee Party (JP) campaigns at Safari Park Hotel last night.

Yesterday, it emerged that NASA was also wrapping up preparations for a fund-raising dinner in Nairobi on June 19 to coincide with Raila’s launch of the coalition’s manifesto.

In the President’s corner are wealthy lawyers, bank owners, insurance magnates and billionaire businessmen known in the country’s political and business circles.

In an interview with Saturday Standard, one the moneymen inside the Jubilee campaign machinery, who is also a trustee of the Friends of Jubilee Foundation, said the lobby had received tremendous support from people from all walks of life.

“We have come together as friends of Jubilee but you need to understand that we are not the only ones supporting the party. For your information, there are so many groups that have come together to support the JP campaigns, the majority of which the President does not even know exists. For example, our pay-bill number has received support from many people — some are sending Sh50 and Sh100 and we really appreciate it because this is a significant expression of goodwill,” he said.

The trustee, who spoke to us in confidence, disclosed that the lobby is made of seven people. They include business guru and prominent advocate John PN Simba (chairman), Titus Ibui (secretary), SportPesa architect Paul Ndung’u (treasurer), Equity Bank founder Peter Munga (member), CMC director Joel Kibe (member), business mogul Peter Muthoka (member) and Pius Ngugi (member). Ngugi is one of the biggest producers of processed macadamia nuts which are exported to foreign markets.

Others who are not registered members of the lobby group but are playing a significant role in resource mobilisation are billionaire Mary Wambui Mungai, a business woman with massive interests across Africa, ICT guru and Karachuonyo MP James Rege, Antony Mwaura, an engineer with massive influence in the construction industry, and Mombasa-based billionaire Suleiman Shabbhal, who is also JP’s gubernatorial candidate in that county.

Others are Mombasa-based billionaire Sam Kairu, events management guru Maina Wandere of Wonderjoy and his advertising counterpart Stanly Kinyanjui of Magnet Ventures.

These are powerful names in local business circles as they own companies or have a significant stake in major companies that trade at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE).

In Raila’s camp is publicity shy billionaire Jimi Wanjigi, who is credited with brokering NASA’s leadership pact, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho -- whose family owns one of Kenya’s largest clearing agencies -- Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero and former Kenya Ports boss Brown Ondego.

NASA says its fund raising efforts will focus on the rank and file members of the coalition. Musalia Mudavadi, who is the chairman of the NASA presidential campaign, said the coalition’s fund-raising strategy would ensure they are not beholden to tycoons when they take over the government after the August 8 poll.

Big financiers

“Our biggest financiers are the rank and file members of the coalition who can contribute as little as Sh1,000 towards the campaign. We want to ensure that our campaigns are people driven,” said Mudavadi.

“We want to ensure that our reach goes all the way to every household in Kenya,” he added.

The window to raise unlimited funds was opened in December when the National Assembly suspended the law capping spending limits during campaigns in a spirited drive pushed by the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee Chairman Samuel Chepkonga.

The Ainabkoi MP at the time explained that the suspension of the cap limiting funds collected was necessary because the House had not approved spending regulations.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) had capped campaign spending for the presidential candidates at Sh5.2 billion, while governors, senators and woman representatives were prohibited from spending more than Sh432 million each. Under the IEBC regulations, the spend for MPs had been capped Sh33 million. The new rules also limited political party expenditure during the elections to a maximum of Sh15 billion. Furthermore, single-source contributions to political parties were not permitted to exceed Sh3 billion.

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[Additional reporting by Jacob Ng’etich]