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James Oswago's wife seeks divorce, claims desertion

By Isaiah Lucheli | June 18th 2013
IEBC Chief Executive Officer James Oswago at a past event. His wife, Benter Akinyi, is seeking divorce.  [PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD]

By Isaiah Lucheli

Nairobi, Kenya: The wife of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) boss has moved to court seeking divorce from her husband.

IEBC Chief Executive Officer James Oswago’s spouse, Benter Akinyi Opande, has challenged a decision by a magistrate’s court that had thrown out a divorce case she had filed on grounds that a lower court did not have jurisdiction to hear the suit.

The petitioner, a secretary with the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers, had moved to the magistrate’s court seeking to divorce from Oswago on grounds of desertion and neglect. She is also seeking Sh203,000 per month as maintenance.

But Oswago, in an affidavit, confirmed that he had left his wife for over 10 years and was living in their matrimonial home in Loresho South.      

In the document, the IEBC boss said if it were true that he had abandoned his wife and children for over 10 years, it would not be humanly possible to sit with them in church every Sunday.

He explained that the reason he left the petitioner 10 years ago was due to her lavish and excessive abuse of alcohol and a life of debauchery.

“I have taken her to correctional facilities but she is not keen to abandon her waywardness. From her pay slip, which I have seen for the first time, she earns Sh103,000, but has never used even a single shilling of her salary on the children or matrimonial home,” he said.

Customary law

Akinyi, who claims that she started cohabiting with Oswago in 1987 before their relationship was solemnised in December 1988 under the Luo customary law, wants the ruling of principal magistrate P Nditika delivered on April 27, last year, set aside by the High Court.

In a memorandum of appeal through lawyer John Oduor, Akinyi submits that the trial magistrate erred in law in failing to direct his mind and thereby misdirected himself in that the subordinate court had no jurisdiction to hear divorce under customary law.

“The learned magistrate erred in law in giving a ruling in favour of the respondent (Oswago) and not directing his mind to the substance of the application before him and the suffering the appellant through the deeds of the respondent,” the memorandum read in part.

The other grounds raised by Akinyi, who has five children with Oswago ranging in age from 24 years to twins of 10 years, include that the magistrate failed to exercise discretion judicially and also erred in law and facts in allowing a preliminary objection in favour of Oswago.

Akinyi had moved to the magistrate’s court in 2011 seeking to divorce Oswago on claims that the senior IEBC official had deserted his matrimonial home for over eight years. Other issues raised in the plaint by Akinyi include accusation of adultery, cruelty and desertion where she accuses Oswago of absenteeism from the matrimonial home, failing to provide love and basic needs to her, emotional stress.

She further claimed that on various occasions he had physically abused and assaulted her. She is seeking dissolution of the marriage and her maintenance or alimony.

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