For 41 years, Mary Wangui Maina and her children lived on a four-acre parcel of land in Mukurweini. However, now all that stands between her and homelessness is a piece of paper.
On Tuesday, the Principal Magistrate’s Court in Nyeri ordered her eviction from the disputed parcel of land that retired Presbyterian Church fiery cleric Timothy Njoya convinced the court she was illegally occupying.
But Wangui is determined to have her way and has already filed an appeal against the ruling by Senior Principal Magistrate Philip Mutua.
The 64-year-old’s claim to the property is her alleged marriage to Rev Njoya’s late father, Nahashon Njoya Murere. But she has been ostracised by the rest of the family, who insist she is an impostor.
Nonetheless, the ruling only aggravates Wangui’s fear for the past 22 years since Mr Murere’s demise from prostate cancer.
“When you are married and have children, the children belong to where you are married. So if I’m evicted, where will I take my children? To the grave where their father lies?” Wangui posed yesterday when The Standard visited her home.
For 22 years, she said, there have been three attempts to kick her out of the land. In one of those instances her house was reduced to ashes.
“Even now that you (The Standard) are here we will not have any peace. They will come in the evening to terrorise us,” her daughter Nelius Muthoni remarked.
Wangui lives on the margins of the community in Ngoru village, surrounded by neighbours who view her living there as an insult.
One neighbour referred to her as ‘just a house worker’ who had been hired at the home but used that to try and fleece the Njoya’s their land.
“Can you hire someone to have your children,” Wangui countered, waving birth certificates that indicate Nahashon Njoya Murere as the father of her two children.
“We showed the birth certificates but the court still ruled against us. We even presented letters from the chief that showed Murere and I were married,” she said.
She continues: We were blessed with four children - George Mathenge Njoya, Anthony Maingi Njoya, Nelius Muthoni Njoya and Lesho Njoki Njoya. The suit property is part of the estate of my late husband who is also the father to the plaintiff,” said Ms Maina.
She produced a statement by Thimba Clan Elders of Ngoru village, Muhito location showing that she and Rev Njoya’s father were cohabiting.
At the disputed piece of land, there are two wooden shacks that look like they were hammered together hastily. The gaping holes have been sealed by rusty pieces of metal.
On an adjacent parcel, her son has put up his own timber house, immaculate compared to the one his mother lives in.
“He was allocated that portion by his father before his death. Why would he do that to someone that was not his son? she poses.
“I began constructing my house in 1981 after the birth of my daughter Nelius Muthoni. The plaintiff reported his father, (deceased) to the chief of Muhito location, one Mr Kiama with the demand to be given more land. The chief summoned him and confirmed in my presence that I was his wife and have a right to inherit his share of the property,” said Ms Maina.
The structures are home to Wangui, her daughter and grandchildren and niece. Almost all of her male grandchildren are named Njoya.
She said Rev Njoya filed succession proceedings in 1997 in respect to the deceased’s property without her knowledge and consent at the High Court in Nairobi. “If they kick me out of here they will just have to leave me at the side of the road since I have nowhere to go,” she said.
The court grants Njoya leave to evict Wangui from the land if she does not vacate within the next 30 days. Wangui will also pay the vocal ex-cleric Sh100,000.
Rev Njoya indicated that Wangui is a trespasser in the land registered as LR No Muhitu/ Thiha/324.
Initially, he explained the land was registered in the name of his father, Njoya son of Murere.
In his witness, the cleric indicated that Wangui was his father’s house help and her services were terminated in 1990 following a discovery that his father had prostate cancer and needed special medical care.
But Wangui, who is being supported by the Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida), insisted she and Njoya’s late father were living together in the disputed land.