By Isaac Blessings
Meru county has produced some of the wealthiest and influential individuals in Kenya. The late Stephen Mutai M’Imanyara, who hailed from South Imenti constituency, built his wealth through sheer hard-work and went on to become the richest man in Meru county.
In this article, WoK brings you his story and the family feud over his wealth and inheritance years after his death.
Stephen Mutai Imanyara
Stephen Mutai Imanyara was one of the founding members of Co-operative Bank of Kenya, a commercial bank with an asset base of Kshs. 537 billion. He was also a long serving Chair of the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) as well as Chair of the Imenti Tea Factory.
Mutai invested heavily in the agriculture sector owning over 1,000 acres of tea plantation in the Central and Rift valley provinces of Kenya under the names Majani Gardens Limited and Giciaro Farm limited.
He was also involved in Real estate development owning a fleet of apartments and estates in Nairobi, Mombasa, Ngong, Isiolo and his home town of Meru.
Examples of the properties include Kotnis building which houses Farmers Centre and the building which houses Sawa Sawa uniforms in Meru town.
During his tenure as the Chair of KTDA, he was credited with transforming the company from a government institution to a successful private company. He also acquired the famous Imenti House that is located along Tom Mboya Street in the heart of Nairobi Central Business District (CBD) through his company Kathera Holdings Limited.
He owned Centreline limited – a tea brokerage firm in Mombasa as well as being associated with Yetu Sacco and Nexas Sacco. He was also the Chair of Meru African Coffee Union (Maccu). He is featured in a book named ‘growing green gold: the legacy of a tea industry captain.’
Family Feuds over his wealth
After the untimely death of the billionaire back in January 2018 while aged 78, his wife Honesty Kanyua Manyara was appointed the sole administrator of the husband’s vast estate.
However, not everyone was happy with the decision including one Engineer Lee Kimathi Njue, a Real Estate Developer, who claimed to be the son of the late Stephen Mutai Imanyara.
Kimathi went to court to demand being appointed as either administrator or joint administrator of the estate. In a lawsuit drawn on March 6th 2018, Kimathi through Thuita Kiiru & Company Advocates complained that Honesty and her children locked him and his mother out of the burial plans and share of inheritance.
He asked the lawyers to pursue legal redress if the family fails to disclose to him all properties and accounts held by M’Imanyara.
It is alleged that Kimathi was born out of a relationship between Imanyara and Martha Mukwenjeru – a former principal. Kimathi’s application was fiercely opposed by Imanyara’s eldest daughter Dr. Bertha Kaimenyi and her brother Kiogora Mutai who disowned him.
“Kimani was never introduced to us as a son and is not in the newspaper obituary of the deceased. He has no right to be appointed an administrator and might mismanage the estate to the detriment of the survivors and dependents,” claimed Dr. Kaimenyi in one of the affidavits.
In his 38- page response, Kimathi said that Stephen Mutai M’Imanyara educated him from Kindergarten to the Morehouse College in America, the same institution attended by iconic American civil rights activist Martin Lurther King Jr. He further stated that M’Imanyara financed his first business.
“I have been very close to my father from birth until his demise,” he said “We shared intimate moments even with my children who equally loved their grandfather.”