Speculation is rife that President Uhuru Kenyatta is constructing his retirement home in rural Ichaweri in Gatundu, Kiambu County. Uhuru’s second and final term ends in 2022. There was also extensive renovation to his other home in Caledonia along Dennis Pritt Road, next to State House Nairobi during his first term.
But his ancestral home in Ichaweri village has been a beehive of activity as construction workers carry out extensive work. A new perimeter wall has already been erected around the first family’s home which has been under elite GSU guard since Uhuru’s father Jomo Kenyatta died in August 1978.
The roads leading to the home have been busy with trucks delivering construction material in what is a daily spectacle to the locals. Last year, Kenyatta Road, the main road to the home off Thika Superhigway, was tarmacked and is being expanded, as are roads in various parts of Gatundu North and South.
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The Kenyattas live in Gatundu South. Their home is a highly fortified property shielding it from prying neighbours. An attempted entry by The Nairobian team was thwarted by the GSU officers who said they were under strict instructions to keep strangers at bay.
According to a family source, Uhuru’s supposed retirement home has been privately funded, unlike that of retired President Mwai Kibaki. The late President Daniel arap Moi retired to his Kabarak home, Nakuru County, while founding President Jomo Kenyatta preferred his Gatundu home, even with State House Nairobi at his disposal.
The mansion’s construction began in 2018, and is protected by formidable barriers besides the 24-hour GSU security.
Similarly, the road leading to its entrance and around the first family’s home is also being expanded to include a dedicated lane specifically for the mansion.
From the few pictures we discreetly managed to take, mounds of soil scooped from the construction site was visible as were building stones and tonnes of ballast littering the compound.
James Wanyoike, a neighbour of the Kenyatta’s and former chief told The Nairobian that there is construction work at Kenyattas home.
“The old fence is being replaced with a new one and people have been speculating it might be Uhuru’s retirement home because he is about to retire. I’m not sure if it’s true. But when a president is set to retire, he must have a retirement home in his rural area. Let us, however, wait and see,” said Wanyoike.
Another villager told The Nairobian that construction has been going until late in the evenings.
“Most of us love being his neighbour because he is a peoples person and easy to interact with,” he said.
A family source added that founding President Jomo Kenyatta’s home in Ichaweri is also under renovation.
Laxmanbhai and N.K Brothers Construction companies have been tasked with the duty of ensuring the fortress has a swimming pool, jacuzzi and other modern amenities.
“Probably by the end of next year, it will be ready for use,” said the source, with another adding that access to the area has been restricted since construction works began.
Although there has been clamour for him from court jesters to stick around, the president appears keen to take a bow after 2022. During the coronation of new African Inland Church (AIC) presiding bishop Abraham Mulwa and his deputy Paul Kirui in January, President Uhuru said: “No one will be at work all his life. You must come back to stay with your family”.
Uhuru had requested to leave the function earlier to attend a family meeting.
“You know, if I don’t attend this family meeting, I will be admonished and told that every time there is such a family meeting, I don’t attend while at the end of my time I will go home and be with them,” he added.
A retiring Kenyan president is entitled to a raft of goodies as stipulated in the Presidential Retirement Benefits Act.
They include generous stipends and four vehicles replaceable every three years. There is also international travel allowance of up to four trips a year, not exceeding two weeks each, and access to the VIP lounge at all airports in Kenya.
Other benefits include 24-hour personal security, guards, housekeepers, gardeners, and cooks at his homes, as well as a fully-functional secretariat.
While there have been calls by a section of politicians for President Uhuru to remain in active politics past 2022 claiming he is “too young to retire,” it remains to be seen what the president has up his sleeves.
His family is not leaving anything to chance and are preparing him for a “honourable exit, once he calls it a day.”
Why Kibaki didn’t retire in rural Mweiga
Retired President Mwai Kibaki was gifted a Sh400 million retirement home in his rural Mweiga home in Nyeri County, but which he rarely lives there.
Kibaki prefers his home in Muthaiga, Nairobi, where he attends the Consolata Catholic Church in Westlands most Sundays, besides hanging out with his former golfing buddies at the Muthaiga Golf Club.
Kibaki’s former security adviser, Esau Kioni, once recalled asking Kibaki “if he would retire in Nyeri and he asked, ‘if we leave Nairobi, who will be left behind?’”
Kioni said though Kibaki visits Nyeri, he’s only there “on weekends but he hasn’t moved to Nyeri permanently. He still lives in Nairobi.”
The Sh400 million home sits on 100-acres, part of the 1,000-acre Sasini Mweiga estate. Kibaki also rarely goes to his ancestral home in Othaya where Kioni is a resident.
One of his handlers once told The Nairobian that Kibaki “is a very, urbane and cosmopolitan person” and that his house in Muthaiga is no different from the one in Mweiga, and that besides “all his friends are in Nairobi, not Mweiga.”
Do billionaire politicians really need city retirement homes?
Deputy President William Ruto has a home in Uasin Gishu.
The stately home sits on an estimated 20 acres, part of 700 the DP bought in Moiben constituency in 2015. The land was part of the 6000-acre Jagir Farm. It has a private airstrip, an artificial lake and six other houses, besides the main house. On its estimated cost, Ruto said in a TV interview: “I would be daft to take Sh1.2 billion to a village to build a house in which I will stay for a week a year.”
Uhuru also has his city home along Dennis Pritt Road next to State House.
The house was bequeathed to Uhuru as a gift by his father, founding President Jomo Kenyatta. It shares a fence with State House. It has two wings, one with a swimming pool and the other has a helipad to receive the president and his visitors. Inside the compound, there is a mini-roundabout leading to the driveway. Its ground floor hosts the living room and dining room, kitchen and more offices, while the upper floor has three spacious bedrooms.
Uhuru requested a large lounge to accommodate guests and delegations. During the mansion’s renovation in 2015, the road leading to its entrance was expanded to a dedicated lane.
Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s private residence on Kanyakwar, Riat Hills, overlooking the Kisumu International has 74 rooms: 10 bedrooms, four expansive kitchens, two main conference rooms, two small conference rooms, and offices.
The three-storey building painted yellow and spots brown glass has a helipad and is expected to be the headquarters of the Raila Odinga Foundation and the Green Outreach Foundation Africa. Both are yet to be formally unveiled.
Raila’s spokesman Denis Onyango said the building will also host “conference, media, recreational and office facilities for hire and rental by the public on completion,” besides a library and archival information of Raila’s public life.
In Nairobi, the former premier owns a luxurious house in Nairobi’s lush Karen suburb. It boasts an Olympic-size swimming pool , a well-equipped gym and an almost 300-metre long driveway.
Uhuru only president in East Africa without village ‘thingira’, cowshed
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda often meet in their country homes. Kagame has the 43-hectare Ntebe farm in Kayonza. Museveni has his in Rwakitura, where he keeps his Ankole cattle.
But President Uhuru Kenyatta’s rural home is the family home as it was left by founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. He has no simba, a thingira of his own in rural Ichaweri, …until now?
Uhuru’s predecessors were different. The late President Moi had the 2,300-acre Kabarak farm where he retreated and hosted delegations. It was one of seven homes- one in Nairobi, six in the Rift Valley.
However, only two homes - Kabarnet Gardens in Kibera, Nairobi and Kabarak farm in Rongai, Nakuru County - are well known.
Currently, Uhuru meets his visitors at either Harambee House or State House. “He is a young man, a modern president. He is not as old as other presidents who value cows and land. That’s why he is comfortable meeting delegations in his office or State House, then everyone goes back to their homes. His home is reserved for his family and a few friends,” explains veteran political journalist Biketi Kikechi.
On why he saw no need for a rural home, Biketi says Uhuru “has interests, and those don’t include cattle, so probably he sees no need to have a farmhouse where he can host his visitors. The city home is adequate.”