People Daily

Kenyatta kin in decade court battle over estate

Wills, the formal wishes on execution of one’s estate, can be a sure cause of family disagreements, even bloodbath. From the rich to the poor, estate disputes, and drama, have not spared anyone in the society. Sample this…

Founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s younger brother, James Ngengi Muigai, died of a heart attack in Nairobi at the age of 92 on July 26, 1995.

Muigai left behind his first wife Elizabeth Mumbi, whom he had married in 1933 and they had four children—Daniel Ngengi (born 1932), Eunice Wanjiku Muturi (1934), Beatrice Wambui Thumbi (1936) and Margaret Wanjiru (1940). However, they parted ways in 1942 and Mumbi went back to her parents’ home where she had two more children—Peter Mugo (1943) and Peter Nyoike (1948).Their formal divorce was finalised in 1975.

Muigai was also survived by his second wife Minnie Ngina, whom he married under Gikuyu customs in 1939 and formalised in a church wedding in 1989. They had eight children—Beth Wambui (1939), Pauline Njeri (1942), Ngengi Muigai (1944), Josephat Mathia (1949), Samuel Kung’u (1951), Andrew Kibathi (1953), Jane Wangui (1956) and Catherine Wanjiru (1958).

Upon Muigai’s death, the former wife Mumbi, and her daughter Eunice, petitioned the High Court for grant of letters of administration of the estate on March 18, 1996, claiming he had died without making formal wishes.

The petition was supported by Mumbi’s other children, two of whom later withdrew.

Apparently, the deceased had left a will drafted on April 28, 1994, appointing Ngengi and his younger brother Mathia as the executors of the will. They petitioned the High Court for grant of probate on May 16, 1996 and in the absence of any objection, it was issued on December 16, 1997.

The duo applied for confirmation of the grant in November 1998 but Mumbi and her children filed an objection in January 1999. They also sought revocation of the grant of probate, asserting that the purported will was not genuine.

By consent of the parties, the grant was set aside and it was agreed that the issue of its validity would be determined by oral evidence. In the course of determining that issue, a host of other issues—including the actual beneficiaries of the deceased, the identity of the properties left behind and provision for dependants—cropped up.

Appellate judge Martha Koome, sitting in the High Court, heard and analysed the evidence of 17 witnesses who testified on both sides and delivered a ruling on April 21, 2005 that the late Muigai had the mental and physical capacity to make a valid will and made one in April 1994 without coercion or undue influence. She had ruled that the will was attested to in accordance with the law and it was not a forgery.

Lady Justice Koome had declared Mumbi and her two sons, Mugo and Nyoike, who had been excluded in the will as beneficiaries, deserved inheritance as dependants of the late Muigai. Mumbi as former wife, Mugo for having been born shortly after their separation and Nyoike for having openly used the name of the deceased as surname.

She had directed the executors of the will, Ngengi and Mathia, to transfer the late Muigai’s Runda estate residence in Nairobi and 10 acres of land at Ichaweri in Gatundu, Kiambu county to Mumbi in trust of Mugo and Nyoike.

However, Ngengi and Mathia challenged the decision on February 7, 2007 arguing the trial court had disregarded solid evidence against the findings.    

Interestingly, Mumbi’s daughters—Eunice and Beatrice—were also aggrieved by Justice Koome’s decision to uphold the validity of the will, claiming there existed strong evidence to render the will invalid.

In a tragic twist to the long-drawn dispute, Mumbi, Eunice and Mugo died. There was no formal substitution of Mumbi and the appeal against her was automatically extinguished. Eunice had lost interest in the appeal after a settlement of Sh1.5 million was made to her in accordance with the late Muigai’s will before her death.

Mugo’s estate was substituted by his legal representative, Mary Wairimu Mugo, who together with two other administrators of the estate, have signed a settlement negotiated between them and the appellants on a ‘without prejudice’ basis.

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