The tale of Stephen Mwangi Mureithi is a story about how President Daniel Moi’s chief spy and business partner was destroyed.
Mureithi died on Monday, aged 84.
His lawyer Paul Mwangi tweeted that he had died at 9.30am at Nairobi Hospital after a long illness.
“With sorrow, the family of Mwangi Stephen Muriithi informs the public that the legend rested this morning,” the tweet read.
Mureithi worked as an officer in Special Branch before it became the Directorate of Security Intelligence, where he was the deputy director.
All along, he was a well-connected personality, having close ties with President Moi, even becoming his business partner in a number of ventures.
DSI was domiciled in the Office of the President and had the sole mandate of intelligence gathering and counter-intelligence activities.
According to court documents, Mureithi and Moi jointly owned a number of businesses.
They included Fourways Limited along Moi Avenue in the city, Sheraton Holdings Limited along Mama Ngina Drive and Mokamu Limited Silai in Nakuru, where they owned 1,020 acres.
But in 1981, President Moi suddenly dismissed Mureithi as deputy boss of the spy agency. Many years later, the reason is not clear.
Instead, he appointed him chair of the board of the Uplands Bacon Factory through a letter dated April 13, 1981. He declined the appointment.
He unsuccessfully tried to contest his dismissal from the spy agency in court.
Police later arrested him and committed him to detention without trial.
A habeas corpus application by wife Jockbed Muthoni to have him produced in court dead or alive was promptly rejected as the court found his detention was regular and in line with public security concerns.
However, in 2009, long after Moi left power, it was Mureithi’s turn to drag the former President to court.
He sued him for infringement of his rights, arguing that Moi detained him as a commercial strategy to deny him access to their joint business engagements. He barred him from accessing accounts and monitoring transactions.
In the suit, Mureithi argued that the reasons for his detention by President Moi “were personal.. and meant to achieve ulterior commercial advantage”.
“It was during the time of his detention and thereafter that the respondent [Moi] caused to be sold and ravaged his interest in the aforesaid companies and the subject properties without accounting for the same to him,” the court papers read.
The former spy claimed that even after detention and after Moi left power, the former President “refused and continues to refuse to give the petitioner an account of his dealings in the said companies and the subject properties”.
Mureithi also complained that Moi prevented him from accessing any information whenever he sought an account and so in the entire saga, he did not just lose commercially but Moi also trampled on his fundamental rights.
He sought Sh2 billion in compensation from Moi. In a 2011 judgment, the High Court through judge Jeanne Gacheche agreed with him.
Moi appealed the judgment, and in 2014, the Court of Appeal overturned it, holding that the former President could not be held personally responsible for Mureithi’s detention because he did not do it in his personal capacity, but as head of state.
Justices Daniel Musinga, John Mwera and William Ouko also found that Mureithi did not prove the commercial losses he claimed to have suffered while in detention.
In what appeared to be a protracted legal duel, Mureithi would swiftly move to the Supreme Court to overturn the appellate court’s decision. However, Moi died on the day in February 2020 when the case was slated for hearing, and this forced its adjournment.
Zehrabanu Janmohamed was later substituted in the suit, in the place of Moi, as he is the executor of Moi’s estate. Hearing of the case at the apex court was last month set for July 22.
(Edited by V. Graham)