Friday October 1, 2004
By Otsieno Namwaya, East African Standard
the biggest landowners in the country.
A residual class of white settlers and a group of former and current power brokers in the
three post independent regimes follow them closely while a few businessmen and farmers,
many with either current or past political connections, also own hundreds of thousands of
The extended Kenyatta family alone owns an estimated 500,000 acres approximately
the size of
Ministry of Lands officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Kibaki and Moi families also own large tracts of land though most of the Moi family
land is held in the names of his sons and daughters and other close family members.
Most of the holders of the huge parcels of land are concentrated within the 17.2 per cent
part of the country that is arable. The remaining 80 per cent is mostly arid and semi arid
In fact, according to the Kenya Land Alliance, more than a half of the arable land in the
country is in the hands of only 20 per cent of the 30 million Kenyans. That has left up to
13 per cent of the population absolutely landless while another 67 per cent on average
own less than an acre per person.
The building land crises in the country, experts say, will be difficult to solve because the
most powerful people in the country are also among its biggest landowners.
The tracts of land under the Kenyatta family are so widely distributed within the
numerous members in various parts of the country that it is an almost impossible task to
locate all of them and establish their exact sizes.
During Kenyatta’s 15-year tenure in State House, there was an elaborate scheme funded
by the World Bank and the British Government, the Settlement Transfer Fund Scheme,
under which the family legally acquired large pieces of land all over the country.
Among the best-known parcels owned by Kenyatta’s family, for instance, are the 24, 000
acres in Taveta sub-district adjacent to the 74, 000 acres owned by former MP Basil
Others are 50, 000 acres in Taita that is currently under Mrs Beth Mugo, an Assistant
minister of Education and niece of the first President, 29, 000 acres in Kahawa Sukari
acres in Thika, 9,000 acres in Kasarani and the 5, 000-acre Muthaita Farm. These are
beside others such as
in Dandora in
The acreage quoted in this report is not extracted from official government records
there are none and those that exist are scattered and some cases incomplete but are
estimates based on close to a year of interviews with farm staff, independent surveyors,
Ministry of Lands experts and land rights NGOs.
Other pieces of land owned by the Kenyatta family include the 52,000-acre farm in
Nakuru and a 20,000-acre one, also known as Gichea Farm, in Bahati under Kenyatta’s
daughter, Margaret. Besides, Mama Ngina Kenyatta, widow of the former President,
owns another 10, 000 acres in Rumuruti while a close relative of the Kenyatta family, a
Mrs Kamau, has 40,000 acres in Endebes in the
It is understood that in the late 1990s, the Kenyatta family started considering the
possibility of disposing of parts of the land in
In the lead-up to the 2002 general elections, for instance, there were indications that the
family was considering selling the 100-acre piece of land in Karen. But even with that,
the Kenyatta family would still own a sizeable part of
farm in Dagoretti owned by Kenyatta’s first wife Wahu.
It is also understood that part of the land on which Kenyatta and Jomo Kenyatta
Universities are constructed initially belonged the Criticos family. The government
bought the land from him in 1972 under the Settlement Transfer Fund Scheme.
It is alleged, though there is little compelling evidence, that the land was transferred to
the Kenyatta family the same day Criticos sold it to the government.
Neither is it clear how much the family paid for it.
Land for the two universities was subsequently donated by the family.
Under President Kenyatta, most of the power wielders either formed or were associated
with land buying companies through which they acquired huge chunks of land around the
country, especially at the Coast and in Rift Valley.
They took most of the land previously owned by the former white settlers, which had
initially been earmarked for resettling those who had been turned into squatters by the
colonial land policies.
One of the most famous land buying companies was Gema Holdings.
Most of the people including retired President Moi and his former Vice President,
Mwai Kibaki who had considerable political influence in the Kenyatta regime, were
given the opportunity to buy as much land as they could.
One of President Kibaki’s earliest acquisitions is the 1,200-acre Gingalily Farm along
the Nakuru-Solai road. He bought it in the late 1960s.
And in the 1970s, Kibaki, who was then the minister for Finance under Kenyatta, bought
10, 000 acres in Bahati from the then Agriculture minister Bruce Mckenzie. Kibaki also
owns another 10, 000 acres at Igwamiti in Laikipia and 10, 000 acres in Rumuruti in
These are in addition to the 1,600 acre Ruare Ranch that came to the limelight when it
caught fire last year.
Just next to Kibaki’s Bahati land are Moi’s 20, 000 acres although his best known piece
of land is the 1,600 Kabarak Farm on which he has retired. It is one of the most well
utilised farms in the area, with wheat, maize and dairy cattle.
The former President owns another 20, 000 acres in Olenguruoni in Rift Valley, on which
he is growing tea and has also built the Kiptakich Tea Factory. He also has some 20, 000
acres in Molo.
He also has another 3, 000-acre farm in Bahati on both sides of the Nakuru/Nyahururu
road where he grows coffee and some 400 acres in Nakuru on which he was initially
The former President also owns the controversy ridden 50, 000 acre Ol Pajeta Farm
part of which has Ol Pajeta ranch in Rumuruti, Laikipia. Last year, the family put out an
advert in the press warning the public that some unknown people were sub-dividing and
Land transactions are ongoing and some of these farms may have changed hands.
Lands minister Amos Kimunya said yesterday the Government is formulating a land
policy, which will address the question of idle land.
“If it is lying idle, the Government will definitely apply the law to the letter to ensure it is
put to productive use,” he said.
“The policy is being developed by the people. At the end of it all, views that emerge are to
be synthesised to come up with prudent policy.” But the Government has no quarrel with
the size of land one owns. “The question is, is that land, notwithstanding the size, being
put to productive use?”
Who is who in the exclusive big land owners’ register
By Dauti Kahura
The most glaring contradiction on land ownership in
indigenous owners in
Chief Samuel Koriata, who is in his mid 70s, owns approximately 100,000 acres of land
in Narok South.
He is the single largest owner of land under one title in Narok District.
Discrete and reclusive, Koriata shuns the limelight, unlike his nemesis, the late
Paramount Chief Lerionka Ole Ntutu.
Little wonder then that even though he is the richer of the two (in terms of land
ownership), it was Ntutu who was well known publicly.
A household name in Narok, Koriata’s land is so big that it spills into
two-and-half hours just about the distance from
He has leased most of the land to other Maasai for grazing and farming.
Still in Narok, another famous landowner is the MP for Nyaribari Chache and Energy
minister Simeon Nyachae, the de facto leader of Ford People.
A one time powerful Chief Secretary to the Cabinet and a career civil servant, Nyachae is
a big time barley and wheat farmer in Mau Narok.
Nyachae owns approximately 4,000 acres and grows barley which he sells to the East
African Breweries Ltd. Nyachae is also a large-scale wheat farmer.
The MP owns a huge tract of land in the arable Molo land for dairy farming and sheep
William Ole Ntimama, the Narok North MP and Public Service Minister is also a
landowner in the district. However, compared with Koriata and Nyachae, Ntimama, is a
small-time landowner. His pieces are scattered in the district, specifically Mau Narok,
Melili and Narok North constituency.
The family of Paramount Chief Ntutu owns close to 10,000 acres of land in Narok South.
Together with the Koriata family, the two literally own Narok South constituency whose
MP is Stephen Kanyinke ole Ntutu.
The Nyakinyua Group, formed in the 1970s and which started as a women’s cultural
troupe for entertaining Mzee Jomo Kenyatta owns close to 10,000 acres in Mau Narok.
The group, with about 5,000 members, owns the Nyakinyua Investment Ltd, which in
1977 bought Murera Coffee Estate, in Kiambu.
Former Attorney-General Joseph Karugu owns 2,000-acre coffee estate on the outskirts
of Kiambu town known as Kamara Estate.
Mike Maina, the owner of the three star Marble Arc Hotel in downtown
Kibubuti Farm (2,000 acres) a few kilometers from the town.
Kiambu District is also home to Charles Njonjo’s Gwabi Estate, an extensive coffee farm
whose acreage we could not immediately establish. Njonjo and Karugu also own big
lands in the Naivasha riparian areas where they have put up fabulous homes.
Stanley Githunguri, the owner of the five-star Nairobi Safari Club, owns the Tassia Estate
in Ruiru, which is estimated to be about 1,000 acres. Githunguri also owned the land on
Jeremiah Kiereini, the long serving Chairman of East African Breweries Ltd, is the owner
of the famous Embori Farm along
company he chairs.
Apart from the Kenyatta family, multi-national also own huge tracts of land in the
Kakuzi Ltd, owned by Linton Park of UK, has over 40,000 acres of land under tea and
The land starts from Makutano on the
Kakuzi also owns a ranch that starts from Kenol Station in Thika District on to Mt
The ranch is used to keep cattle.
Sasini, one of the Sameer Group companies also owns about 2,000 acres in the district,
most of which is under tea plantations.
Other agricultural groups that own extensive lands are the Ruiru based Sofcinaf Coffee
estate and the Del Monte Kenya Ltd, which specializes in pineapples farming and
The wife of former Nairobi Provincial Commissioner Fred Waiganjo allegedly owns
3,000 acres of land on the
In the undulating Kapiti plains that extend to the adjoining Machakos town and beyond,
Prof Philip Mbithi owns a 10,000-acre ranch that was allegedly given to him by retired
President Moi. Mbithi, a professor of rural sociology was at one time head of the Civil
Service and Secretary to the Cabinet.
A former vice-chancellor of the
transferred to the less prestigious East African Community in Arusha
It is not only the aristocratic whites who own land in the expansive Rift Valley Province.
Top civil servants and politicians who served during Mzee Kenyatta’s time own biug
tracts of land.
The most prominent are former Provincial Commissioner and MP for
Mathenge, former Attorney Generals Charles Njonjo and Joseph Karugu and
prominent personalities like Geoffrey Gitahi Kariuki.
Mathenge is said to own about 20,000 acres in Naro Moru. It is here that Mathenge in his
heydays would entertain guests at Silverbeck Hotel, which was part of the ranch.
Mathenge also owns Kio Ranch, situated a few kilometres from Rumuruti.
The MP for Laikipia West, GG Kariuki has one of the single largest chunk of land in the
The President’s brother, George Mwai, has two separate ranches in Laikipia West
adjacent to the Agricultural Development Corporation’s Mutara ranch.
The first ranch is about 4,000 acres which is in two pieces (L/R Nos.: 2532 and 3264).
The other ranch is registered under his name and Lucy Wanjiru. Its L/R Nos. are 2515
The President’s younger brother uses the ranches for beef farming.
In Laikipia East, there is Mukogodo ranch owned by Mohammud Ismail. Ismail’s ranch
border’s Mpala Ranch.
Then is Marley Ranch owned by a wealthy Samburu rancher Lekorere who is in his late
60’s. His ranch borders Chololo and Mugokodo ranch. Lekorere bought the ranch from a
white man identified only as Tomlinson. Tomlinson, who is known among the Laikipia
Maasai as Tomis, still retain some of the ranch land.
The late Democratic Party (DP) chairman in Nanyuki, Mugambi owned a ranch in
Laikipia East. When he died in 1999, his wife and children took over the management
and named Kimakadora Ranch.
Another local who owns some land in Laikipia is one Stephen Kamamia. Kamamia owns
about 1,000 acres in Laikipia East about 25 kilometres from Nanyuki town.
Nominated Member of Parliament Mutula Kilonzo owns a huge ranch in the Machakos
plains. He also owns 2,000 acres of land next to Moi’s Kabarak Farm.