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Kenyan court: Married women can inherit their father’s land

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A court ruling asserting that married women qualify to inherit properties of their fathers and should not be excluded during distribution has stirred debate between defenders of women’s and men’s rights.

The ruling was made by the Environment and Land Court in Nyeri, and stopped a woman from disinheriting her step-daughters. Justice Lucy Waithaka held that married daughters are also entitled to inherit their father’s estate, contrary to customary law and many traditions in the country.

POVERTY

While delivering a ruling on the distribution of the estate of Mr Ibrahim Wathuta Mbaci, who was polygamous, the judge said her verdict was based on the Law of Succession, which “disregards customary law and allows all the deceased’s children, inclusive of married daughters, whether or not maintained by the deceased prior to his death, to benefit from his estate”.

Reacting to the ruling, Ms Emma Njora, a Maendeleo ya Wanawake organisation leader in Nyeri, said it promoted women’s rights to inheritance and property ownership.

“This is a good decision,” she said. “The Judiciary should continue leading the way in discarding sections of customary law that oppress women and deny them their rights.”

She said the decision is also beneficial to men, arguing that when women inherit property from their fathers, they become economically independent of their husbands.

How Kenyan daily, Daily Nation, reported the story. FILE PHOTO

“Sometimes divorce is encouraged by poverty,” Ms Njora said.

But Maendeleo ya Wanaume national chairman Nderitu Njoka condemned the decision, saying the courts are biased in favour of women.

“For a long time women have been viewed as a marginalised group, but that is no longer the case. Men have become the marginalised and are now being oppressed by institutions through the law,” Mr Njoka said.

He said the courts should allow communities to uphold their customary ways of life and traditions.

EQUALLY

“African communities have their own rules and regulations on inheritance, and they should be allowed to uphold them,” he said.

However, the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (Fida) said “the court was just upholding the law”.

“Since 2010, the Bill of Rights in the Constitution trumps customary laws and children have been able to inherit their fathers’ properties,” Fida chairperson Josephine Mong’are said.

“Even children born out of wedlock have a right to inherit their parents’ property,” she added.

Before the 2010 Constitution, she said, the courts would consider the traditions of the litigants and often sided with customary law. But, under the new laws, a child is a child, whether married or not, and is entitled to the parents’ property. In the case at hand, the judge noted that Mr Mbaci’s second wife, Ms Mary Wangui Wathuta, had unfairly failed to include the married daughters of the first wife in the sharing of their father’s estate.

Ms Wathuta’s own sons also opposed their stepsisters’ exclusion. They said that when their father died in 1994, aged 84, he left the family in harmony, and that each wife had been given her portion of land.

They told the court that their father had never prevented their stepsisters from tilling his land, and proposed that the land be distributed equally between the families of the two wives.

ADMINISTRATOR

Mr Mbaci, whose first wife Ruth, died in 1987, was survived by Ms Wathuta and 12 children, seven of them sons.

In her proposed mode of distributing the estate, Ms Wathuta said her four stepdaughters were married and were therefore not entitled to benefit.

She said her husband’s wishes were that she becomes the administrator of the estate, and that only the sons should be allowed to inherit the properties. But her husband, she said, had not put the will in writing.

Justice Waithaka, while noting that the dispute in the family was on whether the married daughters are entitled to a share of their father’s estate, said the applicable provision was Section 29 of the Law of Succession.

The section defines a dependant of an estate as the “wife or wives, or former wife or wives, and the children of the deceased, whether or not maintained by the deceased immediately prior to his death”.

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Thieves defy curfew, drive away farmer’s 15 bulls

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A farmer in Athi River, Machakos County, is counting heavy losses after his herd of 15 prized bulls were driven away from his home on Monday night.

Three of the bulls were later traced to a nearby bush, where they were found with their legs slashed. The rest of the herd is suspected to have been ferried using a lorry to an unknown destination.

Herdboy Tumokinoi Mutuku said a gang of armed assailants struck before dawn.

‘’The gang ensured we could not leave our adjacent houses to the cowshed. It was a well-planned theft that took no time. We were afraid the assailants could attack us,” he said.

The livestock owner, Benedict Muimi, faulted the security apparatus for laxity, especially given that the dusk-to-dawn curfew is in force.

He said livestock theft is rampant in Athi River, claiming that in the past three months he has lost more than 50 cows in similar incidents.

“Let the security apparatus know they are to blame for the spate of theft being witnessed during curfew time in this region,” he said.

“How thieves managed to steal and transport livestock using a lorry 200 metres from the Mombasa Road police roadblock raises eyebrows.”

Residents have cried foul over recent rampant cattle theft cases in the area. They say that since the curfew was imposed, unknown assailants have taken advantage of it to steal day and night.

Residents suspect the raiders could be working in cahoots with rogue security officers to facilitate the theft.

Athi River sub-county police Commander Catherine Ringera said the incident was being investigated and urged the public to volunteer information to expedite investigations.

By Nation.co.ke

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SAD: Five killed in road crash in Nyeri

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Five people have been killed after the car they were travelling in collided with a lorry in Naromoru along the Nyeri -Nanyuki highway.

Police reports indicate that the crash occurred Tuesday night, a few minutes to 7pm, about 200 metres from Naromoru Town.

Kieni East Sub-County police commander Wilberforce Sichalanyi confirmed that all five occupants of the saloon car died on the spot.

“All the five people in the saloon car died. But the lorry driver escaped unhurt,” Mr Sichalanyi said.

OVERTAKING

It is still unclear what led to the deadly crash but police say preliminary findings showed that the driver of the car appeared to have been trying to overtake another vehicle.

Both the tipper truck and the car were being driven at high speed when they collided head on.

“It could have been due to a rush to beat the curfew but what we can tell so far is that the saloon car was attempting to overtake another car. They collided head on,” Mr Sichalanyi said.

The mangled wreckages of the two vehicles were towed to Naromoru Police Station.

Investigations are underway to uncover more details about the incident

By Nation Counties

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Woman held after tenant she evicted left human body in her house

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The Directorate of Criminal Investigations is holding the owner of a building where a dismembered body of an identified woman was retrieved before it was dumped at Tumaini primary school in Umoja last week.

Nancy Wanja Njuguna is held at Buruburu police station alongside two men – a casual labourer she hired to remove the body of the woman cut into several pieces and wrapped with wedding decor materials, and a garbage collector who dumped the body.

Inspector John Kanampiu of Buruburu DCI offices on Tuesday told Makadara law courts that the body of the adult woman was retrieved from Ms Njuguna’s rental house rented to a suspect at large – David Migwi Kariuki- before it was dumped with the decor materials.

Ms Njuguna is held alongside Kennedy Otieno Omar whom she hired to remove the bales of the materials that wrapped the body of the deceased, and Nicholas Kimanthi hired to dump the “items”.

Kennedy Otieno Omar.

The body had been left inside Ms Njuguna’s house leased to Kariuki who has since disappeared. Ms Njuguna has no details of her missing tenant such as copies of the national ID and phone number or next of kin.

Kanampiu said Ms Njuguna had earlier last month decided to lock Kariuki’s house after he failed to pay rent for several months.

“After locking the house, the suspect who is on the run came back, broke into the house taking his belongings and leaving behind huge bales of wedding decor materials and a blue water tank,” Kanampiu stated in an affidavit filed in at the Makadara law courts.

Kanampiu obtained orders to hold the three for 14 days as he continues with investigations.

After Kariuki ran away, Ms. Njuguna hired three men including the two in custody to clean the house, and ferry the luggage and dirt from the house to a dumpsite.

The suspects did the work and carried the wedding décor materials from the said house to a dumping site on May 30.

Kanampiu said the third man, only identified as Kamau, who worked with Omar and Kimanthi is also on the run.

In court, Kimanthi said he is a garbage collector and was hired to take the bales of dirt wrapped in the materials to a dumpsite.

Nicholas Kimanthi

“I asked for Sh1,000 but she offered Sh500 and after negotiations settled on Sh700. I did not remove anything from the house as, by the time I was called, Omar and another man had already removed everything to a corridor outside the house,” Kimanthi told senior principal magistrate Heston Nyaga.

“There was a smell but I assumed the materials were smelling because of being water-drenched and I did not bother to check because they were heaps.”

On Sunday, police received information that there was a body of an unknown female at Tumaini primary school grounds in Umonja two.

Kanampiu said the body had been stacked into four different sacks spotted at the school’s field.

The detective had sought to hold the three for 21 days to complete investigations including carrying out the identification of the body, undertaking postmortem, recording statements of witnesses, tracing the Kariuki.

The tenant of the house had reportedly moved to Ruai after vacating Ms Njuguna’s house.

The detective intends to take samples of the body to the government chemist for analysis, and take the suspects’ fingerprints and record their statements.

Ms Njuguna had opposed the application through lawyer Margaret Muthii. She claimed that she resides four kilometres from the building where the body was retrieved at her tenant’s house.

She said keeping her in cells is putting her in danger of contracting Covid-19.

But Nyaga said he had considered that and the fact that the seriousness of the matter under investigation.

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