A Canadian newspaper has revealed the possible reason behind the deep-rooted feud between Deputy President William Ruto and slain businessman Jacob Juma, linking it to the Sh210 billion mineral find in Mrima Hills.
The Financial Post reported that Jacob Juma had assured the board of a Canadian company – Pacific Wildcat Resources Corp – that he would give the company a boost in the war against corruption, and bureaucratic barriers that were created by those occupying Government seats after the mineral discovery.
Pacific Wildcat Resources Corp., a small Canadian company based in Vancouver but has executives around the world came into Kenya’s system in 2007 just like other mining companies.
The company after a while made a massive discovery at Mrima Hills which it made its prime exploration target.
Following the discovery, Pacific Wildcat embarked on an aggressive drilling campaign and eventually proved up a resource of 1.5 billion pounds of niobium, one of the biggest of its kind in the world. The deposit also holds important quantities of rare earth metals.
In March 2013, the company obtained a mining licence which gives it the liberty to mine.
However trouble began when President Uhuru took over the State House.
After some weeks of being granted the mining licence, Pacific Wildcat representatives met with Kenyatta, who was just elected president into office.
President Uhuru had his picture taken with his guests and shared it on Facebook, followed by a short message, saying he would “encourage growth” of Kenya’s mining sector.
Its licence, which had been granted just weeks to the General Election, was cancelled.
This was after Najib Balala was made the cabinet secretary of mining. Najib then embarked on the campaign of nationalization, saying the country does not receive as much amount as it should get from mineral resources.
Juma who had just merged with Pacific Wildcat, having assured the board that he could help the company avoid some of the unavoidable bureaucratic delays in Kenya, came into the matter.
Balala then invited the slain businessman to a meeting in July, and what followed was heavy disagreements.
By Juma’s narration, the politician during the meeting asked for an inducement of 80 million Kenyan shillings (about $1.04 million) or else the the licence of Mrima Hills would be cancelled. The newspaper reported that the Pacific Wildcat executives where shocked at the demand for bribe.
Later that month, the company called a press conference after it received a key environmental approval for Mrima Hills. Balala was expected in the event but he didn’t show up. However, the company says, Moses Masibo, Kenya’s commissioner of mines at the time, pulled him aside to say the minister wanted to renegotiate the licence.
Pacific Wildcat’s board rejected the renegotiate. Later on, its licence was indeed cancelled, along with a good number of others.
Balala in a Press conference backed his actions, saying the cancellation of the licences was because they were awarded during a transitional period, and he wanted to crack down on “briefcase” companies that did not invest in Kenya.
A year after the nullification of the mining permit, David Anderson, a Pacific Wildcat director and head of its Kenyan unit met with Balala and deputy president Ruto to try to solve the issue. But was shocked by the response of the two who demanded that the licence of Mrima Hills be transferred to a new company, and that the government wanted to get up to half the project for free.
The company then resolved that it will never retrieve its licence on reasonable terms and then opted for arbitration case seeking at least US$2.1 billion in compensation.
Juma continued to accuse the government of corruption even till his death. He was specially critical of deputy president William Ruto, who was charged with murder and persecution in the International Criminal Court until several witnesses denied their former claims.
Anderson said the businessman became increasingly concerned about his personal security in the weeks before he died. Indeed, Juma often said he expected attempts would be taken on his life, which unfortunately came true.
“Jacob had told us on a number of occasions how he was under threat of being murdered,” Kenyan Senator Boy Juma Boy said in a eulogy at his funeral, which was attended by thousands of people. “He also indicated that he knew who (would kill him). Little did we know how true these threats would become.”
Juma was discovered dead in his car. The killing of the high-profile businessmen with interests in many industries, rocked the nation. An autopsy suggested that his bullet wounds were not consistent with being shot in the driver’s seat, and guards at a construction site near the crime scene claim they never heard gunshots. Opposition politicians have claimed police played a cover-up role in the murder.
It is perceived that the businessman was slain outside the spot he was discovered. No charges or arrest have been laid yet, and as details of the death of the 45-year-old who was an outspoken critic of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government trickled out, more questions than answers emerge.