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The Three Entrepreneurs Who Turned  Runda From A Coffee Estate To A Rich Man’s Paradise 

By Prudence Minayo

Before becoming the affluent rich man’s neighborhood, Runda used to be a coffee estate. Runda has gone on to become an upscale estate in Kenya favored by United Nation staffers and deep pocketed Kenyans. Property in this estate, that is a stone throw away from the US Embassy, Village Market and the UN, goes for millions of shillings. 

WoK takes a look at the three people who have made Runda what it is today. 

Background 

The growth of Runda is credited to the establishment of various foreign bodies in Gigiri with the most notable being the UNEP headquarters. Among the people who helped give the estate its exclusive status is the late Dr. Njoroge Mungai and Joseph Odero,-Jowi. There was also Maurice Strong, a Canadian who was a top UN official.

Bid for the UNEP Headquarters

Dr. Njoroge Mungai served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs while Odera was Kenya’s ambassador to the United Nations. They fought for the UNEP Headquarters to be located in Kenya. 

During the time, there were other European and North American countries that were bidding to have the headquarters in their territory. They were even willing to fund the building of the UNEP head office if it was to be built in their countries.

Instead, with no budget for building, Kenya won. A donation of $400,000 was made towards the UNEP secretariat. UN had to also fund the building of the headquarters with Gigiri chosen as the neighbourhood to UNEP. 

Enter Mae Properties 

This provided a golden opportunity for Mae Properties which owned Runda Estate, then a mass of coffee plantations. Mae began building properties on the estate, initially targeting UN workers. In the years leading up to 1980, they built Old Runda with houses sitting on one acre and two acre pieces of land. Other developers would come in the 1990s and build on half acres. 

With this development, Runda grew into an affluent estate. Kenya Commercial Bank developed New Runda along Kiambu road. Zacharia Gakunju, who was once an MP for Gatundu, developed Runda Evergreen Estate in the East and Karume Investments, Runda Mimosa to the West. 

Owners of Mae Properties

Mae properties, who were the initial developers in the neighbourhood, is today owned by Pan Africa Life Assistance. However, the name MAE, represents the three initial owners who were Eliud Mathu, Andrew Zagoritus and Elia Zagoritus. When the three  realised that the UNEP was setting up its Headquarters in Gigiri, the demand for upmarket houses would soar. They transformed Runda coffee Estate to an upmarket living estate. 

Eliud  Mathu was a powerful politician during the reign of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. The Oxford graduate was the first Kenyan nominated by the Colonial government to represent the African Community interests at the Legislative Council. Upon independence in 1963, he was appointed State House Controller.

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