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October 23, 2018

This man Cyrus Jirongo: From billionaire to debtor

Lugari MP. Cyrus Jirongo addressing a rally at Mbale municipal council in Vihiga County recently. Photos by Samuel Simiti.
Lugari MP. Cyrus Jirongo addressing a rally at Mbale municipal council in Vihiga County recently. Photos by Samuel Simiti.

From a billionaire, polygamous man to a debtor.

Meet former Lugari MP Cyrus Lugari who is popularly known for his philanthropic acts.

Having amassed wealth and become a billionaire at the age of 30, Jirongo is remembered for dishing out money during the KANU campaigns in 1992.

MONEY IS POWER

Back then, the largest denomination in the country was Sh200 note and the new Sh500 was nicknamed 'Jirongo.'

The Youth for Kanu 92, an outfit led by Jirongo, was known for liberally dishing out newly-minted Sh500 notes.

Jirongo was so generous that one time when former Cabinet minister Shariff Nassir visited him, he wrote a note to DT Dobie asking them to give Nassir a new car.

Jirongo had walked Nassir to the car park only to discover that the minister was driving an old Mercedes.

That was the kind of man Jirongo was.

He was respected by many as a leader and a man with a generous heart.

Jirongo developed projects such as Saika Estate, Hazina Estate in South B and Kemri Estate on Mbagathi Road.

The "wealthy" Jirongo was associated with companies such as Sololo outlets and Cyper.

Between 1978 and 1981 he went to Mang'u High School and in 1991 he became the chairman of AFC Leopards Football Club.

In 1992, Jirongo and Deputy President William Ruto led the Youth for KANU 1992 movement which was campaigning for retired President Daniel Arap Moi

Jirongo clinched the Lugari seat during the 1997 election. However, two years later, he fell out with KANU.

That notwithstanding, ahead of the 2002 election, he was appointed Rural Development Minister by Moi.

POLYGAMY IN PLAY

Being wealthy, Jirongo could afford to be polygamous.

He has four wives, the first one is Kalenjin, the second a Kikuyu, the third is Kamba, and the fourth one is a Maasai.

Jirongo said there was nothing wrong with polygamy so long as the man "can comfortably provide for each of the wives".

"They are what define us as a nation and as a civilisation. I grew up in a society in which polygamy was the only way to go,” Jirongo said.

He said polygamy made him a better man, a better husband and a better father.

The Draft Marriage Bill 2007 seeks to give couples the legal option of polygamy.

It defines marriage as the voluntary union of a man or woman intended to last for their lifetime and states that the marriage could be monogamous or polygamous provided the two parties are in agreement.

DEBTS ACCRUED 

But years down the line, a court declared the former presidential contender bankrupt after finding him unable to pay debts amounting to Sh700 million.

Justice Olga Sewe of the Commercial Division said Jirongo's inability to repay was demonstrated. The money was to be repaid to businessman Sammy Kogo.

The judge ordered an official receiver be appointed as trustee for Jirongo's estate. The bankruptcy order was granted on September 29, last year.

The former MP is also facing a suit by COTU secretary general Francis Atwoli for alleged non-payment of a Sh110 million debt.

In October last year, Jirongo made an undertaking that he would pay Atwoli.

The workers' union boss now wants the court to compel him to pay the debt.

Read: Presidential candidate Jirongo declared bankrupt over Sh700m debt

On September 19, 2018, the debts and bankruptcy became real when the "billionaire" was forced to spend a night in a police cell.

This was after he was arrested for failing to pay a Sh20 million loan owed to businessman Brian Yongo.

Yongo allegedly loaned Jirongo Sh25 million between 2014 and 2015 but he only repaid Sh5 million.

The registrar ordered Jirongo to deposit Sh5 million cash and a bond of the same amount to secure his release or risk going to remand.

Jirongo could have been remanded but Deputy President William Ruto bailed him out by paying Sh2 million for his bail after he could not afford the amount.

Luhya leaders who included Cabinet secretaries Eugene Wamalwa and Rashid Echesa did a fundraising for part of the money. 

Jirongo and Ruto have had a long association since their days in the ‘Youth for Kanu 92’, a lobby group that campaigned for Moi during the first multi-party election.

They later fell out. Yesterday, Eugene deposited his Mercedes Benz car in court as surety for Jirongo. 

Read: Jirongo to spend night in custody after failing to raise Sh5m bail

Details: Ruto gives Sh2 million to bail out Jirongo, Eugene offers car

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