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January 23, 2019

Murang’a old man puzzled as son, daughter stop burial of 2nd wife

Villagers cover Leah Wambui's grave after a court halted her burial in Kandundu village, Murang'a county.
Villagers cover Leah Wambui's grave after a court halted her burial in Kandundu village, Murang'a county.

Two Murang’a siblings have stopped their father from burying their stepmother in their two-acre homestead.

The ceremony was scheduled for last Saturday, but Lucy Wanjiku and Edwin Gitau from Kandundu village, Kiharu subcounty, obtained a restraining order. They said the land belongs to their late mother Abishagi Muthoni. Muthoni was John Ndege’s first wife.

Wanjiku and Gitau told their father to find an alternate place to inter Leah Wambui’s body.

On Saturday, mourners streamed to the home. Some had travelled long distances, only to be told the ceremony had been postponed indefinitely.

The 82-year-old Ndege was baffled by the turn of events.

Ndege said he married Wambui in 1969. She died at age 69. She is survived by 13 children — all live in Nairobi. Her 14th child, a son, died and was buried on the Murang’a farm. The son’s wife and children also live on the parcel.

Ndege said his wives had a cordial relationship and Wambui played a crucial role in bringing up the two “renegade children”.

Wanjiku, in her 50s, said her stepmother had not participated in buying the land and swore not to allow her burial. She is slightly older than Gitau.

She said Ndege divorced their mother in 1993 and failed to take care of her when she fell ill. Muthoni died in 2005.

The daughter said that even though they have no issue with their father, they will not allow him to bury his second wife in “our mother’s land”.

But Ndege, a former prison warder, said his family lived together happily and he could not understand the latest goings-on.

The distraught father was served with the order late on Friday. He said he could not swiftly inform relatives of the change. He said he bought the land using his savings. Muthoni was in charge of the transaction, he said.

“We had agreed to invest in land,” Ndege said. “I had been posted to far-flung areas in the 1950s and I had no choice but to send her the money to buy the parcel as she was a housewife.”

He expressed regrets that Muthoni registered the parcel under her name without his knowledge. The children are exploiting that to block Wambui’s burial, he said.

Ndege said he did not bother to have the ownership changed because he did not imagine there would be feuds over it.

“I’ve buried my mother, my first wife and four children in this particular land. This is where I want all my family members buried when they pass away,” he said.

In the meantime, Wambui’s remains will be in the mortuary until a court case over the land is concluded. It will be heard from tomorrow.

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