Just Who is Jacob Juma?

Just Who is Jacob Juma?

During the President’s engagement with Gen Z at the Twitter (X) space last week, many attendants of the convo had changed their names and profile pictures to that of Jacob Juma. Jacob Juma is a slain businessman, who was shot dead by unknown men in 2016 around the leafy suburb of Karen where he resided. What was the connection between the two incidents?

The Rise of Jacob Juma

Jacob Juma, before he met his death, was a controversial and wealthy entrepreneur who rubbed shoulders with the high and mighty. Growing up in Western Kenya, he was just an ambitious young man studying at Kenya Polytechnic. His fortunes changed when he was introduced to Chris Okemo, then Minister for Finance and Mining, and Cyrus Jirongo, then Chairman AFC Leopards and a shrewd tenderpreneur. They partly financed his education.

Through the two “godfathers”, he now had access to the political world of power and influence. He became Jirongo’s errand boy in 1992 and sharpened his wits and connections with politicians and tycoons. He registered Juma Construction in 1992 while still at Kenya Polytechnic, and started winning small tenders.

Controversial Businessman

He emerged as a shrewd contractor when he failed to finish Musikomu-Buyofu Road in Chris Okemo’s Nambale constituency. He has been in and out of court for many cases touching on his manner of conducting business, demanding damages, many of which he won.

Such a case is when he sued the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC), for wrongful detainment, after he was charged with producing false documents and remanded at Industrial Area prison. He won the case with Justice Odunga and was awarded Kshs 23 Million for “legal fees, loss of business, special damages and wrongful detention.”

In 2004, he sued the government for breach of contract, after his contract to supply maize to the NCPB was cancelled. He rushed to the arbitrator and was awarded Kshs 564 million, which NCPB contested. The compensation was reduced to Kshs 267 Million yet he had not supplied a single grain. NCPB was later forced to sell some of its assets to settle the bill.

He once locked horns with Najib Balala, then Minister for Mining, over his mining licenses. Juma claimed to have discovered Niobium, a rare gem worth trillions, in Kwale County.

Juma The Whistle Blower

Through his Twitter handle @kabetes, he had promised to table evidence on the Eurobond saga. Being a friend of Raila Odinga, the opposition faction of the government believed he was killed for being an anti-corruption crusader. His body was discovered in the morning with bullet holes, with nothing taken from his Buick vehicle, Rolex watch, cash and phones still intact, and his car lights were still on. This triggered feelings of a revenge attack or assassination.

Months before his assassination, he had recorded several statements with the police about being threatened and trailed by unknown people.

Raila mourning his friend, confessed that Juma used to feed him information on corruption in the government, then touching on Eurobond and National Youth Service scandals.

Jacob Juma’s Feud With Ruto

The two did not see eye to eye. During Juma’s requiem mass at All Saints Cathedral, Jirongo claimed that Juma slapped Ruto and that was the genesis of their differences.

Ruto’s legal advisor, then as Deputy President, Korir Sing’oei, said Ruto had noted with concern the comments.

“Mr. Jirongo made two statements of concern: First, he stated that the killers of Meshack Yebei, a prospective defense witness at the just concluded trial of the Deputy President at the International Criminal Court, were the same persons who killed Juma,” said the lawyer.

“Secondly: That Juma slapped Ruto and that’s where the problem started and investigations should start there.”

He said that “taken together, Jirongo’s statements carried the patent insinuation that Ruto was involved in the deaths of Yebei and Juma.”

The action by netizens to change their profile pictures and handles, to that of Jacob Juma, seems symbolic. Two ways to look at it. The Gen Zs either meant to bring back the whistleblower days to highlight the corruption in government and/ or it was a ploy to get back at Ruto’s alleged involvement in Jacob Juma’s unresolved death. The President over and over dismissed the accusations as unfounded, malicious, and mischievous.

His death remains a mystery being a man with many faceless enemies. His return to Twitter brought back many memories among his ardent followers who chose to keep his legacy alive.