The family of former Cabinet minister Mbiyu Koinange will today renew their court battle for the control of his Sh14 billion empire with the dependents of Jomo Kenyatta’s confidant split over the sharing of the vast assets he left behind.
The High Court will this week start the process of distributing the properties of the powerful Kenyatta-era Cabinet minister in line with a Supreme Court ruling that found Koinange had four widows — not two — and which stated that all his dependants should inherit the multi-billion shilling estate. Koinange died on September 3, 1981 without a Will.
At the centre of the latest court battle is whether the assets should be distributed equally among the four widows or the allocation should be based on a list of Koinange’s spouses as well as his recognised children.
Koinange’s third and fourth widows, Margaret Njeri Mbiyu and Eddah Wanjiru Mbiyu, want the property split equally among the four widows in line with Kikuyu customary law.
However, those associated with the first and second widows want the assets shared among 20 dependants, including Koinange’s remaining children and grandchildren as well as his two daughters-in-law.
If this happens, it will shrink the assets available to the third and fourth widows whose children have also been excluded from the property sharing plan advanced by those associated with the first and second widows. Incidentally, the latter are also not in agreement on what each of the 20 dependants should get.
The differences look set to extend the inheritance row whose battles have oscillated from the High Court to the Supreme Court for more than three decades.
“My proposal is to have the estate distributed in equal portions with each home receiving an equal 25 percent share as per the Constitution of Kenya and Kikuyu customary law,” Mr Njeri say in her submissions to the High Court.
A similar proposal has been tabled by Ms Njeri in a suit that will be mentioned this morning before Justice Aggrey Muchelule.
Koinange had more than 30 properties, including prime land in Nakuru, Nairobi and Kiambu and shares in companies like Centum, BAT and Limuru Dairy, making the family one of Kenya’s wealthiest.
“The Court of Appeal was categorical that only Margaret Njeri and Eddah Wanjiru would be added as additional beneficiaries as wives and not their children who they claim to be beneficiaries of my father’s estate,” Koinange’s last-born daughter, Lenah Wanjiku, said in her submissions. “Therefore, any distribution can only include them as single units.” Ms Wanjiku is the daughter of Koinange’s second wife.
Members of Koinange’s first family echoed the sentiments, but faulted Lenah for scrambling for the juiciest assets — 88 acres of land adjacent to Two-Rivers Mall in Nairobi where an acre is valued at Sh140 million.
“Lenah Wanjiku must get a share of the property of Mbiyu Koinange just like other daughters. It is not proper to allow one of the daughters to appear more equal that the rest,” said Stella Njeri, Koinange’s grand-daughter from the first wife.
In July, the court ordered Ms Wanjiku to surrender the 88 acres and the title deed for the property ahead of distribution of the assets.
Koinange’s fourth wife had petitioned the court to have Ms Wanjiku give up the title to the 88 acres. Her proposal was backed by other members of the extended family.
However, Ms Wanjiku is expected to ask the High Court to allow her to keep the property, arguing she was willing to surrender other assets due to her. She argues that the family is aware of her stay on the land and that she has made investments worth Sh450 million on the property, including a hotel.
Some family members are calling for her prosecution, arguing that she acquired an illegal title after hiving off the 88 acres from the property dubbed Closeburn, which had 600 acres. The court declared the subdivision illegal.
About 260 acres of the property were sold to an international investment group and another 100 acres to Centum Investment, which used it to construct the Two Rivers Mall. The remaining 240 acres are valued at Sh2.88 billion.
Other disputed assets include one of the biggest undeveloped plots in the Nairobi central business district, a Sh2 billion holding next to the Reinsurance Plaza. It is used as a private parking lot and generates Sh108 million annually in fees.
There are also shares in many firms, including Magadi Soda, BAT, Centum, Ocean View Beach Hotel and Limuru Dairy and buildings in Kiambu, Nakuru and Mombasa.
Other multi-billion shilling land including more than 1,000 acres in Kiambu worth Sh7.8 billion, several parcels in Nakuru worth about Sh1 billion and plots valued at Sh4.4 billion in Nairobi.
The value of the shares were not quoted in court documents.
Supreme Court Judges David Maraga, Philomena Mwilu, Mohamed Ibrahim, Smokin Wanjala and Isaac Lenaola have said that the Court of Appeal correctly applied the law in declaring the two widows beneficiaries of the estate.
The High Court had sidelined the two from inheriting the multi-billion shilling empire.
Mr George Kihara, Koinange’s son from the first family, had petitioned the Supreme Court to hear an application where he challenged the inclusion of Ms Njeri and Ms Wanjiru.
The parties are from today returning to the High Court to start the legal fight for distribution of the estate after the Supreme Court agreed with the finding of the Appeal Court.
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