dreams dashed

Kenya: Ruto’s ally in trouble over ‘fake’ foreign education scholarship

By Victor Abuso

Posted on August 22, 2023 13:50

Kenya’s President William Ruto at State House, in Nairobi. (Tony Karumba/AFP)
Kenya’s President William Ruto at State House, in Nairobi. (Tony Karumba/AFP)

Jackson Mandago has found himself embroiled in accusations of orchestrating a large-scale embezzlement scheme targeting hopeful students promised overseas scholarships.

Kenyan senator Jackson Mandago, a staunch supporter of President William Ruto, is on the spot over allegations of conspiring to steal billions from students who were promised a scholarship to study in Finland and Canada. He has denied the charges.

Some Ksh1.1bn ($6m) was collected from hundreds of students who Mandago had promised an educational scholarship.

Mandago, a former Governor of Uasin Gishu county in the Rift Valley region, was arrested and arraigned in court last week, together with his co-accused Joshua Lelei and Meshack Rono.

The two were senior staff at the county government when Mandago was in power.

They all denied 10 charges brought against them, which include forgery and abuse of office, and were released on Ksh2m bond by a Nakuru court.

Arrested and charged

However, Senior Principal Magistrate Alloys Ndege said he will only proceed with the case when the fourth suspect, Joseph Maritim, reported to have left the country, will be available. Ndege explained that all the accused are connected and part of the same case.

Before his arrest, Mandago had already refuted the allegations of stealing money from parents whose children were allegedly promised scholarships to study in Finland and Canada, when he launched the programme in 2021, while still serving as governor.

“No funds have been misappropriated. Fifty-one students were admitted at a Finnish university, 25 to pursue degrees and 26 for nursing courses,” he responded to angry parents and students who demanded their money back.

Mandago had been defending the programme, indicating that before leaving office in September 2022, the beneficiaries had secured slots in Finnish and Canadian universities and were only awaiting their visas to travel.


Recently, parents and students have been holding protests in Eldoret town, narrating their pain and frustrations, alleging that they have been cheated, and are demanding their money back.

“I feel pain. I sold my land. I borrowed money from the bank but my child did not travel,” said one parent who confronted the senator in a tense meeting held on 7 August.

“I have developed depression. Why did you lie to us? Return our money,” an elderly woman said, breaking down in tears.

Mercy Tarus, 24, had just graduated from a local university, with hopes of furthering her studies in Canada. She described how her mother tirelessly borrowed money and sold their land, only for the money to disappear.

“I’m tired of your lies. Return our money. Our parents are suffering,” she said while leading other students in a protest.

“I’m not afraid of losing my life for speaking against this injustice,” she added.

President Ruto has weighed in on the scandal, promising accountability. “If you stole money from those parents, reimburse it or you will be in trouble,” Ruto said when he addressed residents in Eldoret.

Financial aid

Ruto is also promising that the government will support the affected students to complete their studies.

Political analyst Wycliffe Odera told The Africa Report that the scandal is embarrassing to Ruto, considering that it happened in his home county, and involves his confidant.

Odera also says he does not expect much from the courts, describing the arrest of the Ruto ally as a public relations exercise to cool down the angry parents and students.

“I don’t think the case will go far. It will be settled out of court,” he says.

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