Kibaki’s family refused to recognize me as family, it causes me emotional distress

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Career hotelier Jacob Ojuka Ocholla, the 62-year-old grandfather of three who claims to be the biological son of late former President Mwai Kibaki, says he only became aware of his true parentage at the age of 21.

Educated at the Rift Valley Academy and in the United States and Switzerland as a management trainee with the Hilton Group of Hotels, Ojuka is courteous and eloquent; his English with a slight British accent.

In an exclusive interview with The Standard on Sunday, Ojuka said that Mr Hillary Ocholla, the man he now calls “my adoptive father” spared no expense raising his children. Ocholla, a graduate of Makerere University, was the founding Managing Director of Bomas of Kenya.

“He was a loving and responsible father for whom family always came first. I had a wonderful and open relationship with him,” he said.

But when he died on January 28, 1981, Ojuka claims his mother, Mrs. Jane Hilda Ocholla, now deceased, sat him down and explained to him that Ocholla was not his biological father and that she was making arrangements to meet his real father.

“It was the most shocking thing I have ever heard. The news devastated me with so many unanswered questions,” he said.

Three months later, he claims to have accompanied his mother to the Hilton hotel in Nairobi where he met Vice President Mwai Kibaki – the man he now calls “dad”.

“He addressed me by my name. Remember he was a close associate of my late adoptive father, both of whom had been students at Makerere. It was in Uganda that he met my mother when she was visiting my adoptive father, Ocholla. At one point, the two were even neighbors at Bahati Estate, Nairobi,” he said.

Subsequently, Ojuka claims to have met and broken bread with Mr Kibaki countless times at the Milimani, Mombasa Beach and Sirikwa hotels in Nairobi, Mombasa and Eldoret, where he served as manager. Their meetings were most frequent at the Hotel Milimani where the then Vice President was a frequent visitor. Mr Kibaki even spent an hour with his late wife in a city hospital when she was stricken with cancer in 1994, he said.

But Ojuka says that access was suddenly cut off when Mr Kibaki became president in 2002.

“I could never get through his mind when he became president. After his retirement, I made many attempts to visit him at his home in Muthaiga while he was ill without success.

“And when he died, I was forbidden to pay homage to him. My lawyer, Dr John Khaminwa, unsuccessfully asked the family and the attorney general to intercede,” he said.

Asked for comment, Dr Khaminwa confirmed that he wrote letters to both parties.

When asked why he chose to go public with his parentage now and not during Mr. Kibaki’s lifetime, Ojuka said that when they first met, the former president not only acknowledged that he was his biological father , but also asked him to always respect him as a father. and never do anything that might hurt his (Kibaki’s) character.

He added that for 15 years he sought the intervention of a senior Catholic cleric and a senior judge (both now retired), hired three groups of lawyers and met with Mr Kibaki’s older sister. , Mrs. Esther Waitherero, for the family to officially recognize him. in vain.

The Nairobian, however, could not independently verify any of these claims, or why Mr Kibaki made no effort to reach out to a “son” he had interacted with for decades.

“People may say I’m crazy, but I’m sane. For 21 years, I knew I was a Luo. Then, for the next 40 years, I became Gikuyu. This lack of recognition (by the Kibaki family) doesn’t make me either Luo or Gikuyu, which causes me a lot of emotional distress.

“What I’m looking for is identity, not because I look like Mr. Kibaki, but because he’s my father. I have a right to my name,” said Ojuka, who is fluent in Dholuo.

Born on July 22, 1960 at Kaloleni in Nairobi, Ojuka studied at Mariakani Primary School in Nairobi, Rift Valley Academy and Rift Valley Technical School before joining the Hilton Hotel as a management trainee.

After leaving African Tours and Hotels, he joined World Vision as Donor Relations Manager and later the American NGO Feed the Children International as Country Director.

Currently, he runs a private sports business.

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