By Prudence Minayo
Jeff Mwaura Koinange is a Kenyan journalist, author, TV presenter and radio presenter. He
worked with Kenya Television Network (KTN), Kenya’s first independent television station among other stations as you will read elsewhere in this article. Jeff is the only Kenyan journalist to win an Emmy award. He is one of the most accomplished journalists in Africa.
Age and Family
The veteran journalist was born on 7th January 1966 in Kiambaa Village, Kiambu county.
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The award winning journalist was born to Fredrick Mbiyu Koinange and Hilda Ngoima who was the daughter of a wealthy farmer. Fredrick Mbiyu was the first Kenyan to own a petrol station and car dealership in 1948. His grandfather was an eminent Gikuyu chief with 6 wives. When he was 2 months old, he lost his father to a brain haemorrhage and Hilda (28 at the time) had to raise him and the siblings. The siblings are: Hilda Wanjiru, Phyllis Wangui, and Freddie Koinange. Jeff is the last born. The mother was a great disciplinarian and former headmistress in Kiambaa Village near Banana Hill Kiambu county. Peter Mbiyu, the first Kenyan to get a Masters degree at Columbia University, New York, is Jeff’s uncle. Mbiyu is also Jomo Kenyatta’s brother-in-law in-law. Lilian Wairimu Koinange (Jeff’s aunt) is married to the Anglican Bishop Obadiah Kariuki, the father to Attoney General Paul Kihara.
Sonya, a lady from Panama was the presenter’s first wife. She was their flight instructor. They got married in 1988 and divorced in 1994. The news anchor is currently married to Shaila Koinange, a Kenyan of Asian origin. They met back in 1986 when they both attended an interview to be flight attendants for the Pan Am airline at safari park, Nairobi.
Shaila and her husband have a son called Jamal. The bundle of joy came after 9 years of
struggling to conceive. In his book “Through My African Eyes” the TV personality reveals the struggles they underwent to have Jamal. After almost giving up, a friend they met in Lagos encouraged them to try IVF at a certain clinic. This is what Jeff says:
“ We had practically given up until Jimmy Monclus Maleketa, a half Spanish, half Congolese
friend we met in Lagos suggested we try invitro-fertilization (IVF) at a renowned fertility clinic in Barcelona, Spain.”
The couple didn’t want to do it having been down this road before and getting nothing but
disappointment. Nevertheless, to keep their friend off their backs, they did it once again and this time the gods smiled on them. Months later, Jamal was born.
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From 1972 to 1974, he attended Hospital Hill in Parklands. Later, he proceeded to St. Mary’s and did his A levels in 1984. He then joined Kingsborough Community College to pursue Broadcast Technology and Management, where he graduated with honors. He gave the valedictorian speech having graduated top of his class. This earned him a scholarship to the prestigious New York University. In 1991, he graduated from the University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Broadcast Journalism.
Straight out of high school, he interviewed for and got a job with Pan AM World airlines in
1986. Passengers adored his voice whenever he’d make announcements and this prompted him to pursue journalism.
He worked for KTN as a part time news anchor in 1995 as well as a Reuters correspondent in Nairobi. During his stint at KTN, some loved his American accent and others hated it.
Between 1991 and 2000, he worked for ABC and for NBC in 1994. In 1998, he was appointed Reuters West Africa Bureau chief. He moved to Ivory Coast and later to Johannesburg. He then joined CNN in 2001.
Joining CNN was the highlight of his career. It was here that he would gain global recognition and also face the biggest scandal of his career. He served as the African correspondent for CNN.
The most notable stories he covered of Africa include:
1. Darfur crisis in Sudan
2. Civil wars in Liberia
3. Most severe famine in Niger, West Africa. The story called “Starving in Plain Sight”
attracted a lot of attention from the world prompting many to come to the aid of the
people. This story won an Emmy Award.
4. The story of the fall of Mobutu and the rise of Laurent Kabila in DRC.
5. Civil war in Sierra Leone
6. The war in Mogadishu, Somalia
7. Senator Obama's visit to Kisumu, Nairobi in 2006
8. Nelson Mandela ending his term and handing over to Thabi Mbeki
9. A doctor in Bukavu, Congo who was helping hundreds of sexually abused women
10. The controversial story of Niger Delta rebels in Nigeria. During the story, he was in the
presence of masked guerillas who had captured some Filipino Nationals. The Nigerian
government claimed the story was staged. Both CNN and Jeff denied the allegations, the
latter saying that ii was a real story not Hollywood.
Outside Africa Stories
Hurricane Catrina story in New Orleans
War in Iraq
Shortly after the controversial story, a Swiss national, Marianne Briner, claimed Jeff had an
affair with her. She further stated that the former CNN correspondent admitted to staging the Niger Delta crisis. The Swiss national published the emails in a blog. At the time, Jeff was living in South Africa with his pregnant wife. Within a short time, Jeff’s unceremonious exit from CNN was announced, May, 2007. Many think that Marianne’s story got Jeff fired.
The news anchor came back home and in 2008 joined the then launched TV station, K24. He hosted Capital Talk Show.
In 2017, he joined Royal Media services where he hosts the Jeff Koinange Live (JKL) every
Wednesday. He also co-hosts the Breakfast Show with professor Hamo on Hot 96, a Royal Media services radio station. The TV personality also hosts Sunday Live on Citizen TV alongside co-host, Victoria Rubadiri.
In August 2019, he appeared as a judge to East Africa Got Talent (EAGT) which premiered that same month. He judged alongside Vanessa Mdee (Tanzania), Gaetano Kagwa (Uganda) and Makeda Mahadeo (Rwanda).
1. Moran of the Burning Spear in 2007 awarded by former president Mwai Kibaki for his
contribution to journalism in Kenya and Africa.
2. Prix Bayeaux for war coverage for a story he did on rape victims in the DRC (2006).
3. George Forster PEABODY Award for coverage of hurricane Catrina, New Orleans, USA.
4. Emmy Award for the Niger Delta famine story
Many believe he is swimming in money. He is one of the highest paid Radio and TV Presenter in Kenya pocketing a six figure salary every month. They say he once revealed to be worth more than 50 million Kenyan Shillings. He also owns a Mercedes Benz G-class that has a factory invoice of over 10 million before tax.
The 54-year-old has written two books:
1. Koinange Wa Mbiyu – Mau Mau’s Misunderstood Leader.
In the book published in 2000, Jeff explains the story of his grandfather who was one of the key leaders behind Mau Mau movement. The colonial master hated him but to his people he was a source of strength. In 1952, he was detained only to be released a weak frail man.
2. Through My African Eyes published by Footprints Press Kenya is his second book. It talks
about his life, school days and career.
The talk show host was arrested for contempt of court in 2015. Jeff Koinange and Tony Gachoka ( a businessman) were directed to appear before the magistrate after he was arrested and released on defying court order allegations.
They had disputes with Jimmy Wanjigi, Sani Mbui Wanjigi and Kwacha Group of Companies
Limited. The complainers obtained orders against Jeff Koinange, KTN and the Standard Media Group restraining them from broadcasting or publishing defamatory statements against them or the company. However, Jeff went ahead to discuss what they were barred from during his talk show.
Despite living large, the journalist has been drowning in debts. On 6th April 2020, Jeff’s 130 million home was announced to be auctioned off due to failure to settle debts. The advert placed on local dailies urged interested parties to submit their interest where bidding deposit was 5 million in cash or banker’s cheque. The property is to be auctioned off today on 28th April 2020.
The news presenter revealed that he had tested positive for the dreaded COVID-19 but his family members are in good health. He further stated that he had self isolated to avoid spreading the virus to others.
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