It has taken Tom Lodechi, 86, and his younger brother Jamine Mogoye, 81, over two decades to claim ownership of their late father’s land.
And on July 9th, they could not hold back tears as Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha handed them the title deed for the land in the presence of Vihiga county commissioner Susan Waweru at Mbale town.
“The land belonged to our late father Solomon Chungulu, who died in 1997, but it has been a tough journey getting the title deed. We thank God,” said Lodechi.
And now, they have a huge responsibility of sharing the parcel with their two siblings, who were not present during the issuance of the title deed.
“We have fought for this document since we were young, it was not easy. We shall now live our remaining days peacefully,” said Lodechi.
Mogoye said, at some point, they wanted to give up, “but we were determined to claim ownership of this land and inherit what is rightfully ours,” said Mogoye.
“We feared we would die before receiving the title deed because of our old age, but our dream has come true. Thanks to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s initiative to issue all Kenyans with title deeds that have been gathering dust in land registry offices across the country,” he added.
Many families from Vihiga have not received title deeds due to bureaucracy in land registry offices that has slowed down the property succession process.
It is even tougher for families claiming ownership of land belonging to their late parents.
Under the Law of Succession Act (Cap 160), in an event where someone dies without having written a valid will, an application for letters of administration has to be done.
An affidavit of justification for the proposed administrator is made together with the guarantee of personal sureties, a copy of the death certificate and at least two applicants needed because of continuing trust for minors, as well as applicants’ identity cards.
Additionally, a letter from the area chief listing all the beneficiaries to the property, their ages and relationship with the deceased, identity cards and finally proof of ownership of the property of the deceased must be produced.
The family of Ezekiel Atsiaya from Vihiga Central are lucky to have initiated the process and completed it successfully.
Atsiaya was delighted to receive the title deed for two plots belonging to his ageing father. “It has not been easy, we are happy to have this document after a long wait,” he said.
Atsiaya notes that some families are embroiled in land disputes due to the long property succession process. “Judiciary has also been slow in hearing and resolving land disputes leading to the delayed succession process.”
He says the law regulating land ownership ought to be reviewed so that elderly folks, widows and orphans can acquire title deeds without having to be subjected to complicated processes.
Ms Waweru noted that an estimated 47,475 title deeds will be issued in Vihiga county. “We have witnessed an increased number of land succession disputes that have taken long to be determined as families struggle to raise legal fees. We urge the President to review the period of the succession process,” she said.
“The main challenge at the Lands Ministry when processing and issuing title deeds has been a failure by some beneficiaries to undertake the succession process after the original owner of family land dies,” said Waweru. Prof Magoha said all the title deeds will be issued by the end of July as directed by President Kenyatta, noting that those with pending succession cases will have their matters addressed within the stipulated time frame.
The CS advised those who have received the title deeds to invest and make good use of the land.
“Ensure that you keep the title deeds safely and use them to uplift your living standards,” said Magoha.