It’s tradition vs law in fight for Kiambu tycoon’s Sh500m

NAIROBI: When tycoon Peter Mondo died 38 years ago, the absence of a will did not raise doubt on who to trust with his Sh500 million estate. And justifiably so.

As is with the Kikuyu tradition, his widow and only son would be in charge. His four daughters did not raise any objection then.

When Mondo was laid to rest at his home in Kikuyu on April 7, 1978, his wife Keziah Wanjiru and their son Ngigi Kitson became the estate trustees and administrators.

But that was more than three decades ago. Now, the daughters want a share of their father’s property.

In what appears a clash between traditions and the Constitution, the late Mondo’s four daughters have challenged their brother in court over ownership of the vast estate.

At the centre of the dispute is the Kikuyu customary law that states that unmarried daughters can only claim the portion of their father’s property allocated to their mother after she dies.

“This case seeks to differentiate the customary law and the written law and the August 2010 repealed Constitution,” lawyer Elizabeth Wamuyu representing the daughters told The Standard on Saturday at the Milimani Law Courts.

It appears the hope of the four sisters — Njoki, Wanono, Nyaguthiti and Waithera — to get a share of their father’s estate now lies in the hands of three Kikuyu elders.

‘Three wise men’

Last week, Milimani Law Court’s Justice Margaret Muigai of the Family Division directed the four unmarried women to avail expert testimony on how they are supposed to inherit their late father’s property under the Kikuyu customary law.

Subsequently, three Kikuyu customary law experts will lead evidence on inheritance practices in a re-opened case determined 35 years ago.

The testimony of two retired Presbyterian Church of East Africa reverends and a senior chief could usher a new dawn in the law of succession in Kenya.

But on his part, Ngigi who has put a hurdle to the suit by filing a preliminary objection, says the matter has been determined under traditional law and all the property vested to him. Ngigi also maintains that under Kikuyu customary law, unmarried daughters can only claim portion of what had been allocated to their mother when she dies.

He claims the court lacks jurisdiction to determine the case as it had decided it earlier thus making it “functus officio (can’t revisit what it has determined).”


Ngigi further claims the estate having been distributed 35 years ago all documents were disposed off and therefore re-opening the matter would prejudice him and his mother.

“Our mother is still alive and is the one entitled to own her late husband’s property under the Kikuyu customary law,” Ngigi says.

In the application, the sisters claim their brother has been disposing of part of the estate secretly. They claim their mother,  now 80 years old, is senile. “We fear that our brother could continue disposing off the land held in trust for us and eventually we could find ourselves as destitutes,” they say.

The four sisters say they are also beneficiaries of their late fathers’ multi-million shilling estate and their brother has put in place a plan to disinherit them.

“You (Ngigi and their mother) have hatched a plan to suffocate us financially so that we give up on seeking a share of our father’s wealth. We no longer enjoy the lifestyles we did when father was alive,” they said.

The daughters are asking the court to declare that they are legal heirs of the late Mondo’s estate.

The women want the court to restrain their brother from disposing, encumbering and or in any manner dealing with the 11 properties.

They no longer want want the property held in trust and instead want to their individual shares preserved for now.

Ms Wamuyu avers the estate comprises plots and large parcels of land within Kikuyu Township and its environs worth millions of shillings.

The case will be heard on April 7, 2016.