Quiet revolt as sisters take on brothers in succession feud in Kenya

Barng’etuny Plaza in Eldoret town, which is among properties being fought for in a succession battle pitting the son of the late politician Ezekiel Barng’etuny against his daughters. [PHOTO: KEVIN TUNOI/STANDARD]

NAIROBI: A quiet revolution is unfolding in the courts as women lay claim to inheritance wealth citing the new Constitution that outlawed discrimination.

Married women are among plaintiffs in succession cases fuelled by a scramble for estates worth over Sh50 billion that have sparked bitter family feuds.

The latest development has further stoked sibling rivalry over properties - left behind following the death of wealthy patriarchs — and has even shaken key businesses. Under prior customary practice, sons would automatically inherit the wealth of their fathers upon death, but women, backed by the law, are challenging that patriarchal norm. 

Two sisters Esther Mburu and Ann Muthee, have since won round one of the battle for a piece of the property of the late Titus Muiruri Doge, which includes a 300-acre farm, a 100-acre quarry and several commercial buildings in Thika Town.

High Court Judge Luka Kimaru ordered that the property be shared equally among the five children but the brothers, Daniel Njenga, Joseph Mwaniki and Moses Wainaina, have since moved to the Court of Appeal to contest the decision to award the property to their married sisters.

Justice Kimaru had ruled that succession laws and the Constitution do not discriminate against any beneficiary on the basis of gender and that all children were entitled to a share of their father’s property.


He ruled that the 100-acre mining quarry be divided into five equal portions and the real estate and shares on the stock market be sold and proceeds divided equally, but the sons given priority to buy.

Their mother got ownership of the matrimonial home and four acres of land.

In Eldoret, three daughters and a daughter in-law of the late veteran politician Ezekiel Barnge’tuny have challenged their only brother Erick’s absolute authority over their father’s Sh2 billion wealth.

The sisters - Ogla Missoi, Joyce Chumba and Doreen Kogo-  moved to the High Court in 2015 to claim a share of the property that includes Barng’etuny Plaza in Eldoret town and vast agricultural lands

In the previous year, Erick’s sister-in-law had filed a suit against him in the progress of which the court stopped any transactions on the disputed property and froze all accounts pending conclusion of the legal battle.

 William Arusei, counsel for the plaintiffs, said his clients were pursuing their right to equal distribution of family wealth in accordance with Article 27 of the Constitution that outlaws discrimination in succession of family property.

Article 27 provides for equality and freedom from discrimination and adds that “women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres.”

It is this new constitutional provision that has re-opened a matter that was settled 38 years when tycoon Peter Mondo died.

Although he did not leave a will, when Mr Mondo was buried at his home in Kikuyu on April 7, 1978, his widow, Keziah Wanjiru, and their son, Ngigi Kitson, took over administration of his Sh500 million estate.

His four unmarried daughters did not object at the time as they had no claim under Kikuyu tradition.


But emboldened by the new Constitution, Njoki, Wanono, Nyaguthiti and Waithera now want a share of their father’s estate.

“This case seeks to differentiate customary law from written law and the August 2010 Constitution,” lawyer Elizabeth Wamuyu who represents the four sisters told The Standard at the Milimani Law Courts.

In Nakuru, three daughters of business magnate Stephen Kung’u, who founded the famed Hotel Kunste in Nakuru town, are also angling for a share of their late father’s Sh50 billion empire.

This push by women to inherit their fathers’ property brings a new twist to raging property disputes that have torn families apart.

Although businesses are thriving, behind the curtains of success are family dramas as siblings fight for a stake in the corridors of justice.

Cases gathered by The Standard indicate rivalries that straddle several empires, some of which were calmly woven for decades from scratch to mega businesses.