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Eldoret: City of champions now home of mega scams


You are wrong if you think you would come to Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County, and find poor peasants.

The chances of meeting a wealthy maize farmer or a millionaire athlete are high. But there is the dark side of Eldoret town, baptised The City of Champions because of producing the biggest number of the world’s best athletes.

North Rift region’s biggest commercial hub has become the home of suspicious deals and scams. Scammers seem to be out to make a kill out of parents and youth eyeing better life abroad.

Armed with their smooth tongues, innocent faces, and swanky offices in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu’s suspected frauds have become some of the smoothest operators in the country, according to victims.

When one group is promising to take students to Finnish universities and vocational training centres and Canadian institutions of higher learning for more than Sh1.2 million each for just a year, another team is charging them for job linkages in countries such as Qatar and Canada.

Then there are land-grabbing cartels that have an unquenchable thirst for idle properties.

And then comes housemaid agents who recruit young women before abandoning them when they are mistreated in the Gulf.

The Finland and Canadian scholarship fiasco is still a hot potato.

Parents report they paid nearly Sh950 million before the initiative ran into headwinds.

For two months, parents whose children had not travelled to Finland institutions of higher learning despite them paying school fees ranging from Sh1.2 million to Sh1.5 million more than a year ago.

The airlift programme was introduced three years ago and hundreds of youth from Uasin Gishu were promised that they would land jobs within months and will be able to pay their own fees and support their parents back in the villages.

It was an initiative of the county administration, and parents believed in their leaders and sold properties to airlift their children to Finland.


As Finland-bound students were waiting patiently to fly to Europe, another initiative to Canada was floated to parents and potential students but has also faced similar delays.

After unbowed parents persistently demanded answers for the delays and refunds, former Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago and his successor Jonathan Bii defended the initiative.

But later, Governor Bii threw Mandago under the bus as he distanced himself from the airlift programme, claiming it was an initiative of the previous administration.

The parents took issue with a decision to spend Sh96 million from an Overseas Trust bank account to offset fee arrears for over 300 students without seeking their consent.

“The county is yet to pay me about Sh2 million, and now I feel threatened. Releasing the names of three parents out of more than 100 that have been allegedly refunded felt wrong to us,” Edward Kiptek laments.

Another parent, David Kosgei says: “We are fed up and only want our money back so that we can move on with our lives.”

Earlier last year, hundreds of youth knew they would head to Qatar for well-paying jobs during the World Cup.

A company, First Choice Recruitment and Consultancy, which had offices at the Zion Mall in the heart of Eldoret took agency fees, according to complainants who held protests earlier this year after the World Cup ended without them travelling to Qatar.

First Choice Recruitment and Consultancy Chief Executive Judy Jepchirchir defended the botched overseas job recruitment, he says the youth had been asked to pay Sh40,000 each to be connected to jobs in the Gulf.

Out of the Sh40,000, Sh10,000 was meant for registration and medical checkup, according to the recruitment firm.

More than 12,000 youth from Uasin Gishu, Nandi and other North Rift counties paid the money, but only tens secured the overseas jobs.

Based on the numbers, nearly Sh500 million could have been raised as agency fees. 

“The youth were asked to give Sh30,000 for facilitation and placement for work. Our intention was to take many young people for short-term jobs in Qatar but we faced visa delays. We have refunded those who didn’t travel,” the CEO says.

However, several victims claimed that they had not received the refunds.

Collins Kiptoo, who sold his motorcycle to fly to Qatar for World Cup-related jobs says:

“I sold my boda boda to travel to Qatar. I was earning from the motorcycle and my family never lacked. It is devastating that I was left jobless after someone promised to take me to Qatar.”

Kiptoo and many other youths believed the recruitment agency because, in May 2021, the firm was launched in a colourful ceremony graced by a cabinet secretary and top county officials.

“We never doubted them because the cabinet secretary who attended the launch of the recruitment drive was sure that we would secure jobs in Qatar,” says Kiptoo.

On July 1 this year, Jepchirchir was spotted dining with top government officials during the launch of ‘Gava Mkononi’ an initiative that aimed at digitising 5000 government services.

During the launch, Foreign Affairs CS Alfred Mutua revealed his ministry’s initiative dubbed ‘Kazi Majuu’ where he explained that Kenyans looking for opportunities abroad would log in to the e-Citizen portal and find available opportunities.


 Senator Kackson Mandago. [PHOTO: FILE]

Jepchirchir was among the recruitment agents surprisingly introduced as genuine by the CS.

If you are lucky not to be defrauded by job and education airlift programmes, you are at risk of falling victim to individuals who forcefully take idle land and puzzlingly transfer ownership.

The morning of Sunday, May 14, 2023, for instance, remains edged in the minds of Kimoson African Inland Church (AIC) faithful in Kapseret, barely 10 kilometres away from Eldoret town.

That day, a ruthless Uasin Gishu gang believed to be invading and forcefully occupying idle plots on the outskirts of Eldoret stormed their Church precincts and stopped the faithful from worshipping.

According to Church elders, worshippers were greeted with a rude shock after they found goons comprising tens of youth within the Church’s compound.

The elders recalled how the dreaded youth were stopping everyone from entering the Church for Sunday service.

The gang, according to several reports, has been taking over prime lands which are yet to be developed by the owners at the behest of powerful individuals.

They chase away the victims after occupying their properties.

At Kimoson AIC, the gang seized 0.5 acres and claimed that it would be utilised for the establishment of an Early Childhood Education (ECDE) school.

They have since built a pit latrine in it.

The 0.5 acres taken by the youth already had an ECDE school founded by the Church in 1999 but was shut three years ago after the number of pupils declined.

 “We were shocked to find goons led by an elected leader on the Church compound on May 14. Many worshippers panicked after they were turned away by the group. We had used 0.5 acres of our land to establish an ECDE school, but goons stormed the Church and announced that it was taking the plot for a public nursery school,” Maina, the church elder recalls.

When contacted by The Nairobian, the leader accused of storming a Church and notifying congregants that their Church had been curved away defended his move, denying allegations of land grabbing and insisting that the disputed property located next to Kimoson AIC compound was public land earmarked for a nursery school.

“The public had requested that the land be used to build a nursery school. I agreed with the public and I fenced the public land.

After fencing, the church said they had an interest in the same property.

The Church (allegedly) destroyed the fence in an attempt to grab it.

“I will build the ECDE school by all means. We have the title deed and the church has no powers to take public land earmarked for public utilities,” he responded.


Several landowners narrated their painful experiences with gangs taking over properties that are yet to be developed.

Jacline Okelo, a Kipkaren estate resident, had together with her husband, bought an eighth of an acre of land in 2006, but the property has now been taken by an individual who built a butchery and restaurant on it. Ms Okelo is a grocer (mama mboga) at the Eldoret market.

Julius Tarus, a squatter living in a local church in Kipkaren claimed another gang is protecting some powerful individuals occupying a farm in Kipkenyo awarded to landless persons including himself in 2003.

The elderly Tarus says he found refuge in a Church located in Kipkaren after they were thrown out of the squatter land by goons.

James Sang claims he was wrestled and chased out of his four-acre farm in Kipkaren by a gang in February.

Uasin Gishu County Commissioner Edison Nyale said his office had received several cases of land disputes in recent months. Nyale said the goons visiting terror on innocent landowners were well-known and that investigations were underway.

The administrator said most of the land-grabbing cases were reported in Kipkenyo, Moiben, Soy and Turbo areas.

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