A judge Thursday brought to an end a four-decade succession feud involving the wives and children of former powerful Cabinet minister Mbiyu Koinange who were fighting over an estate with an estimated value of over Sh14 billion.
Justice Aggrey Muchelule Thursday ruled that the properties of the minister who served in founding president Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s Cabinet would be distributed among his 12 beneficiaries, including two widows who are still alive and 10 children.
At the centre of the latest court battle was the question of 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, wanted the property split equally among the four widows in line with Kikuyu customary laws.
However, those associated with the first and second widows, who are both deceased, wanted the assets shared among 20 dependents, including Koinange’s remaining children and grandchildren as well as his two daughters-in-law.
In his judgement, Justice Muchelule said all the children have equal worth irrespective of their sex or marital status.
The public is also set to benefit as the court directed that the family reserves space for utilities like roads, police stations and schools on some of the huge tracts of land owned by the family.
Mr Koinange, who also served briefly in former president Daniel arap Moi’s administration, died on September 3, 1981 without a will, sparking a vicious battle for the control of his estate.
“One wishes that all Kenyans can get into a habit of planning their lives, especially thinking about what will happen to their families upon their death,” Justice Muchelule observed.
The High Court ruling is in line with a Supreme Court ruling which found that Koinange had four widows – not two – and which stated that all his dependents should inherit the multi-billion shilling estate.
Top on the list of Koinange’s property are the 240 acres of land adjacent to Two Rivers Mall in Nairobi valued at Sh2.88 billion and housed under a firm called Closeburn, which initially had 600 acres. About 260 acres of the property were later sold to an international investment group and another 100 acres to Centum Investment, which used it to construct the Two Rivers Mall.
Other assets include one of the biggest undeveloped plots in the Nairobi central business district, a Sh2 billion holding next to Re-insurance Plaza.
It is currently used as a private parking lot and generates Sh108 million annually in fees.
There are also shares in many firms, including Magadi Soda, BAT #ticker:BAT, Centum #ticker:CTUM , Ocean View Beach Hotel and Limuru Dairy and buildings in Kiambu, Nakuru and Mombasa.
Other multi-billion shilling properties include over 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 his shares was not quoted in court documents.
The court said that a plot on Lunga Lunga Road and 800 acres of Muthera Farm in Nakuru would be sold and the proceeds banked in a joint account operated by the four administrators of the estate.
And after allocating 150 acres for roads, schools and a police station, the rest will be shared out equally among the 12 beneficiaries.
Justice Muchelule also said that 10 acres at Ehothia Farm, 95 acres at Waehothia Farm, all in Kiambu County, will be sold and the proceeds banked in the said account.
He noted that some beneficiaries had settled and made extensive developments on some parcels they settled in and it would be unfair to move them. He gave them such bigger portions and shared the remaining with all the beneficiaries.
Under Closeburn, Koinange’s daughter, Lenah Wanjiku, who had developed a hotel on the land was offered 30 acres with brother David Koinange getting a similar portion.
Supreme Court Judges David Maraga, Philomena Mwilu, Mohamed Ibrahim, Smokin Wanjala and Isaac Lenaola had ruled that the Court of Appeal correctly applied the law in declaring the two widows as beneficiaries of the estate.
The High Court had sidelined the two from inheriting the multi-billion shilling empire.
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.