Sh2,700 debt keeps body in morgue for over 600 days

Esther Muhatia, the widow of Timona Mlana Amukumbi. [Mumo Munuve]

It is more than 600 days since Timona Mlana Amukambi died, yet his body continues to lie in the mortuary due to a land dispute and a Sh2,700 old debt.

The mortuary bill has hit Sh600,000 and the Amukambis want Charles Kangayia to foot the bill for delaying the burial of their patriarch. The body is at Kakamega’s St Elizabeth Mission Hospital Mukumu mortuary.

However, Kangayia claims his father sold the disputed land to Amukambi in 1975, but the latter never cleared a balance of Sh2,700 as agreed.

Suing on behalf of his father’s estate, Kangayia stopped the burial of Amukambi after he died on July 19, 2019, until the bereaved family settles unpaid balance on their three-acre land in Shinyalu sub-county.

“The land belongs to my late father Kangayia Shichei and I am the administrator of his estate,” said Kangayia in his pleadings before the Kakamega Chief Magistrate’s court.

He argued that his father Shichei left a will in 2009 when he died, saying that Amukambi owed him Sh2,700, which was to be paid at current market rate, and that is what he was following up with in court.

“The late Amukambi purchased the land in 1975 but failed to pay the full purchase price of Sh6,000. He only paid Sh3,300. At the time my father died in 2009, Amukambi was to pay the balance at market value,” said Kangayia.

The Amukambis, represented by their administrators Alfred Musavi and Simon Senyenje, aver that asking for the balance of a transaction which took place in 1975 is totally absurd and against the law of Limitations of Actions Act.”

Musavi and Senyenje are cousins of Kangayia.

After 10 months in court, the Amukambis proved they were entitled to the land because the late mzee Amukambi was their father and they had individually held the land for over 12 years without dispute to sustain its claim on grounds of adverse possession.

The lower court in May 14, 2020, ruled in the Amukambis favour. It handed them the disputed parcel and asked them to bury their father on it. The court also ordered that Kangayia foots the legal cost the Amukambis incurred in the case.

But before that happened, Kangayia filed another suit under a certificate of urgency at the High Court in Kakamega to overturn the trial court’s decree and subsequently deposited a security of Sh500,000 for the filing as ordered.

On December 9, 2020, the High Court upheld the ruling of the trial court in what appeared as a move that would bring closure to the burial dispute.

But the Amukambis returned to the trial court with an application asking for the forfeiture of the Sh500,000 security Kangayia deposited to go towards footing the mortuary bill.

They argued that the accrued mortuary bill was not their making.

Last week, the aggrieved Amukambis were in court hoping for a decision on their application that Kangayia had dutifully objected but met another bottleneck.

“Cases at the Kakamega Chief Magistrate’s court will resume on April 6,” they were told at the court.

On April 6, the body of their father will be 627 days in the cold room at the mission hospital that charges between Sh800 and 1,000 per day.