Wed, 11th Feb - He sipped wine at a private member’s club last Friday, death was smoking a joint waiting for Hosea Kiplagat at the Karen Hospital. Kiplagat-a Moi political orphan- had left his Karen home along Quarry Lane to Invergara Club in Lavington, Nairobi. The wine was to cool his 76 year old Tugen head then reeling under the weight of Sh375 million debt.
In his palmy days, that quid was pocket change-when he could be advanced millions in unsecured loans- which would later be written off. It was easy for Kiplagat to pull such stunts as the nephew and advisor in the late President Daniel arap Moi’s Kitchen Cabinet.
For starters, he once influenced the allocation of 45 acres of Karura Forest to Kitisuru Ltd owned by businessman Mike Maina of Marble Arch Hotel. The land was then swiftly sold to NSSF for an eye-watering Sh295 million-with Maina and Kiplagat sharing the spoils! Kitisuru Ltd was then dissolved and details of the transaction erased!
Hosea Kiplagat was once the father in-law to local musician Prezzo (Jackson Ngechu Makini) via his short-lived marriage to Daisy Kiplagat.
Mike Maina had other tasks. Like teaching June Moi, the President’s daughter, business tactics, growing exponentially wealthy in the process, under Kiplagat’s wing.
A good word from Kiplagat would usher a faceless Kenyan into the financial uplands. Like the late lawyer Mutula Kilonzo Sr. He was among Kenya’s most expensive, charging Sh1000 to open a file in 1975-when a dollar was a dollar, a pound was a pound, a shilling was a shilling, the Euro was a rumour and the Indian Rupee was a bad joke. But it was Kiplagat introducing Mutula to President Moi in the 1980s that his law firm would forever sing its financial Hosannas.
Before his death, Kiplagat had Garam Auctioneers breathing down his neck. Among properties up for the hammer included over 10 parcels of land and his Karen home squatting on five acres. There was no better place for Kiplagat to relax than Invergara Club-where membership is by introduction.
Hosea Kiplagat was the landlord of fugitive Rwandese Genocide mastermind, Felicien Kabuga, when America’s FBI was searching for him with a Sh500 million bounty on his head in the 1990s, according to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Kabuga was last year arrested in France after nearly 30 years on the run.
Founded by White Settlers living around Lavington, Valley Arcade and Kileleshwa in 1948, it was at Invergara where Kenya’s Governor, Evelyn Baring, used the club’s telephone from the bar counter and called Police Commissioner DDM McGoun with instructions to arrest Mzee Jomo Kenyatta on August 20, 1952 kicking off Kenya’s State of Emergency in the ensuing Mau Mau uprising during the war for independence.
Members who saw Kiplagat sipping his wine at Invergara Club had no idea it was his last. Though facing debilitating debt, the Sh10, 000 annual fees was no big deal for Kiplagat, the former chair of Coop-bank where he could ask President Moi to write off Sh5 billion bad debt from farmers and his wish granted.
Kiplagat was the President’s nephew and among a cohort of men from his Tugen community to hit the Mother Lode in Moi’s 24 year presidency. See, Kiplagat was a prison warden when Moi was Vice President and Minister for Home Affairs under which Prisons fell. It was here that a few prison wardens like Abraham Kiptanui, later State House Comptroller and Joshua Kulei, the reclusive billionaire and Moi’s proxy in business, would rise to dizzying wealth and political influence.
Fortunes nosed south when President Moi retired in 2002. The Mercedes and Pajero Coop bank had bought him were being auctioned by 2005
Hosea Kiplagat signs the condolence book for the late President Daniel arap Moi in February last year. British historian Charles Hornsby in, Kenya: A History Since Independence, tells us that Moi was loyal to those who backed and stood by him during times of crisis. Kiplagat was among steadfast sidekicks and henchmen.
In fact, Kiplagat was in Moi’s ‘Tugen Boy’s Club’ comprising men related to him by blood, intermarriages or ethnic bonds. Among Moi the sub-tribes comprising the Kalenjin Nation, Moi trusted Tugens the most. This Boy’s Club later morphed into ‘Tugen Mafia’ which formed part of Moi’s Kitchen Cabinet of trusted advisers. It was with an easy transition that he went into big time business alongside managing Moi’s properties and nurturing Baringo Central Constituency in Moi’s absence as a Kanu operative.
Besides Kiplagat, the ‘Tugen Mafia’ also had Gideon Toroitich, another nephew and MD of the Agriculture Finance Corporation (AFC), General Daudi Tonje, the one-time Chief of General Staff and Moi’s brother in-law and Philemon Chelagat the then Mayor of Karbanet and Moi’s campaign manager in his Baringo stronghold. For this, Kiplagat was always by Moi’s elbow, his name a common feature during news bulletins.
Kiplagat bought huge chunks for government land for Sh20, 000 instead of Sh250, 000!
When Lonrho Africa was exiting Kenya and its chair Tiny Rowland was gifting the Moi family Standard Group, Hosea Kiplagat bought the wattle plantation for a song in 1996. The plantation was adjacent to 50 acres he had been allocated for free in Eldoret. It was borrowing money from the Bank of India for business expansion that became his financial waterloo when Covid lockdowns came calling.
Fortunes nosed south when President Moi retired in 2002. Kiplagat, the Moi orphan, was replaced by the late Stanley Muchiri as chair of Coop bank besides facing investigations over suspect property transactions. The Mercedes and Pajero Coop bank had bought him were being auctioned by 2005.
He slid out of the limelight to run Eldoret Concrete Poles and Timber Treatment International-Kenya’s largest. In fact, Timber Treatment International which deals with telegraphic, fencing and building poles, was previously part of a 40,000 wattle plantation owned by Lonrho Africa.
Kiplagat was also allocated 50 acres in Mau, part of Mau Water Tower. When the 990-acre ADC Kiswani land at the coast was up for sale in 1994, Kiplagat’s Sewenei Ltd bought huge chunks for Sh20, 000 instead of Sh250, 000! Such was his life when the good times were rolling.