Swaleh Nguru: The Reclusive Billionaire Who Knew No Peace Even In Death

By Prudence Minayo

Swaleh Nguru, real name Awadh Sheman, was arguably one of the richest men in the coastal region of Kenya. The tycoon owned 1/3 of Mombasa Island before he decided to subdivide the land and sell to willing buyers.

Despite preferring to be under the radar, the businessman received both national and international acclaim for his charity work which immensely changed the lives of many, especially those of Somali refugees.

His impact was so great that a road in Tudor, Mombasa was named after him. The man of Yemeni descent started out as a fishmonger selling Kingfish (Nguru in Swahili) and that’s how he got his nickname. 

Here is his story as told by WoK


The philanthropic businessman was born on 4th October 1932 in Mombasa’s Bondeni area. The eldest in a family of eight children, his parents were Saleh Sherman and Salha Sherman. A young Swaleh Nguru would help out his father who was a taxi driver and through this developed a love for cars.


He would go on to set up a bicycle repair shop at a very young age. This repair shop would evolve into a very popular garage named Swaleh Nguru garage.

He had big time clients like the founding father of Kenya Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and trade unionist Tom Mboya. Swaleh Nguru repaired cars as well as sold used cars at his garage.

The business grew and he expanded his portfolio to include ranching, real estate and construction. He was one of the largest producers and exporters of sisal in the country. He has also been involved in the trade of tea, nuts, coffee and grain. 

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The serial investor has been credited with helping refugees from Somali who escaped their country when the civil war erupted to have a better life in Kenya. There was even a refugee camp on the coast named after him. 

He was also a conservationist who has protected more than 100,000 hectares of forests and wild animals. He was the recipient of the head of state commendation and has been internationally recognized by UNHCR, UNEP, and WFP. 

Marriage and death 

He married Dalila Juma on April 14, 1960. He died in the mid-70s but never rested in peace after the siblings went for each other’s jugular. 

Family Feud 

After his death, his sons could not agree on how they would share his vast estate estimated at Ksh10 billion.

In 2001, the Mombasa tycoon multi-billion estate was frozen as his feuding sons and daughter in law fought over his will. With this ruling, none of them could sell his immense tracts of land or collect millions of shillings held in various bank accounts. 

Appearing in court in June 2012, the family members hurled insults at each other. The battle was between the Nguru’s eldest son Awadh Said and his younger brother Omar Swaleh together with their late brother’s widow Barika Sherman. The brother, Mohamed Sherman, had died years earlier without receiving his due. 

One of the lawyers said that Awadh Said had failed to execute his father’s will four decades down the line. 

Mrs Sherman lawyer Taib Ali Taib had no kind words for Awadh who he equated to a bloodsucker during court proceedings in 2012.

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“My Lady, this court witnessed emotions a few weeks ago because of this same man. Heirs have died left, right and centre and will continue to do so in the fullness of time. For 40 years, the first respondent (Awadh Said) has refused to execute his father’s will and my clients have realised that he is just interested in sucking blood from the estate,” Taib told the court.

The younger brother also accused him of tampering with assets despite a court order warning against such a move. 

Another article by Nation in June 2012 also reported that two sisters, Zeinab Mohamed Sherman and Suaad Mohamed also moved to court.

They accused Awadh of locking them out of the inheritance worth more than Sh10 billion. They told Lady Justice Grace Nzioka that Awadh kicked them out of their home following the death of Mohamed Sherman forcing them to live like beggars. 

“My Lady, we are told that we are children of a billionaire, but we have been living on handouts from well-wishers. My uncle threw us out of our father’s house and confiscated our cars. I have sacrificed my time to be in court today because I know this is an important case, yet am supposed to be preparing for my wedding which starts tonight, ”  Suaad told the court. 

Zeinab had no kind words for her uncle calling him ‘evil, ruthless and cold hearted’.

Light at the end of the tunnel

In 2016, Awadh Said, who is the executor of the estate, agreed to distribute the property among family members. With this, probably one of the richest men in Mombasa will finally rest in peace.