Kenya: Chris Kirubi, the Insider in Government

Billionaire business mogul Chris Kirubi, who died yesterday after a long illness, was a darling of politicians because he bankrolled them.

Well known as an entrepreneur and philanthropist, Mr Kirubi was among those who attended the Sh1 million-a-plate dinner at Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi in 2017 to raise money for President Uhuru Kenyatta's campaign for a second term.

The dinner, which was attended by top businessmen in the country and top government officials raised almost Sh1 billion in an hour.

The money was to go directly to the campaign kitty for the President's re-election.

The high-profile event, which the media was barred from covering, had those in attendance seated according to their contributions. People at the highest level, "platinum", who contributed Sh10 million and above, sat closest to the President. The next level was the "gold" category, for those offering at least Sh5 million to help Mr Kenyatta secure a second term in office.

Then came the "silver" group, who gave Sh2.5 million each, followed by "bronze", for Sh1 million, and lastly the "garnet" category, who contributed Sh500,000 each.

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Mr Kirubi also sat in various campaign and strategy meetings for the government. He was among the blue-eyed boys in the Jubilee Party and accompanied President Kenyatta on most business trips.

In an interview in 2014 with Business Daily, Mr Kirubi denied any suggestion that he had become one of the blue-eyed boys of the Jubilee administration -- insisting that any influence he had at the time had been built over a long time and was based on merit.

Foreign trips

"I have not had the privilege of having a cup of tea with Mr Kenyatta in private since he became President. I only accompany him on foreign trips because I am a business leader. I mean, you cannot talk about business in Kenya without talking about Kirubi," he said.

President Kenyatta, in his condolence message, described Mr Kirubi as a cheerful, approachable and accessible corporate leader who loved people and interacted with all Kenyans.

"Chris was one of the most accessible corporate leaders Kenya has ever produced. He interacted with everybody and would show up in places where he was least expected.

"He interacted with many Kenyans, especially the youth on his radio shows through which he shared his experiences in business and life," President Kenyatta said. Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga described Mr Kirubi as a friend, and dedicated philanthropist who helped many Kenyans.

"Chris Kirubi was my friend and one to many others and a mentor to even more. He was a dedicated entrepreneur and philanthropist who helped scores of Kenyans over time. My heartfelt condolences go to his family, friends and all those whose lives he touched," Mr Odinga said in his message of condolences.

Mr Kirubi accompanied President Kenyatta on trips to South Africa, China and the United States of America, among other places, in pursuit of business and investments.

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