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A 36 year old court battle names Margaret and co-wife as beneficiary of Mbiyu Koinange estate

By Standard Reporter | November 25th 2017

The Koinange family celebrating after the court ruling. (Photo: Courtesy)

The Court of Appeal has Friday declared Margaret Njeri Mbiyu as the recognised widow of the late Peter Mbiyu Koinange and a beneficiary of his estate.

Margaret went to court to appeal the ruling by High Court judge William Musyoka dated 25th September 2015. Musyoka had ruled that Margaret Njeri and Eddah Wanjiru were not widows of Mbiyu Koinange and would not be the administrators of the estate of the deceased.

“We come to the conclusion that the learned judge erred by holding that her marriage to the deceased solemnised on 20th March 1971 was invalid. There was no evidence that Margaret was ever divorced by the deceased as required by the repealed Act, save that they were separated and living apart when the deceased died. Separation alone did not deprive her of the status of a widow of the deceased because the Law of Succession Act defines wife to include a separated wife,” read the judgement by three judges of the Court of Appeal – Justice Philip Waki, Justice Milton Makhandia and Justice Kathurima M’Inoti.


Margaret and one of her Lawyers celebrating the ruling. (Photo: Courtesy)

Margaret Mbiyu’s reaction:

“I just want to thank the Lord for the case that has been on our backs for close to 37 years…. It has come to an end today. I’ve been recognized in the inheritance of Peter Mbiyu Koinange. I’m one of the widows of Koinange. I also thank my lawyers that have been through the whole process with us.

“We have been tormented for many years because of family wrangles but God has done wonders as the Court of Appeal ruled in our favour and now we are at peace.

“I have forgiven my tormenters,” said an elated Margaret.


Margaret Njeri Mbiyu. (Photo: Courtesy)


For 36 years, the Koinange family have been fighting over the vast wealth left by Peter Mbiyu Koinange (deceased), who was a very influential figure in the first post-independence regime in Kenya. He is an uncle to journalist Jeff Koinange.

Mbiyu Koinange acquired and accumulated massive wealth, particularly prime land in Kiambu, Nairobi, Nakuru and Mombasa counties, in all totalling to almost 6,000 acres worth billions of shillings. Unfortunately, that wealth has turned out to be the apple of discord in his family.

Since Koinange’s death intestate on 3rd September 1981, his family has been fighting acrimoniously over whom his dependants are, and their respective shares of the property. The litigation over his estate has spawned countless petitions, objections and applications for one relief or another, ultimately leading to the appeal. Even the deceased’s grandchildren and third parties joined the fray, staking all manner of claims to portions of the estate.

Margaret Njeri Mbiyu started cohabiting with Mbiyu Koinange in 1968 and solemnized their marriage under the Marriage Act, (repealed) on 20th March 1971. Margaret did not have any children with Mbiyu Koinange but she adopted two, namely Moses Njunu Mbiyu and Lydia Wambui Mbiyu, after the death of Mbiyu Koinange. She was separated from Mbiyu Koinange and living in Mombasa, but came back to one of his farms (Ehothia farm), after he died. 

Family members told the court Margaret was not a widow or beneficiary of the estate of Mbiyu Koinange and was not entitled to any share of the estate because the deceased divorced her, after which she married his brother, Charles Karuga Koinange.


The Koinange family have been fighting over the vast wealth left by Mbiyu Koinange for 36 years.(Photo: Courtesy)


About Peter Mbiyu Koinange

Koinange who had four wives, played a major role in the anti-colonial politics in Kenya, as founder member of the Kenya African Union in 1944, and served as its representative in London between 1951 and 1959. Earlier, in 1939 he was the founder of Kenya Teachers’ College, Githunguri, one of the first indigenous African educational institutions, where he served as principal until 1948.

Between 1961 and 1962, he was the Secretary General of the Pan African Freedom Movement for East, Central and South Africa. After independence, he was not only a close confidant of the first President of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, but also his brother-in-law. For a long time he served as a Minister in Jomo Kenyatta’s Cabinet in the powerful docket of Minister of State in the Office of the President.

Serious family fights

According to the judgement seen by Standard Digital, there have been petitions for grants of representation; myriad applications for annulment of grants; for change and replacement of administrators; for cessation of intermeddling with the estate; for eviction of some of the children of the deceased from some of the properties; for disposal of properties of the estate; and for partial distribution of the estate, among others.

Criminal prosecutions, including for murder and attempted murder, have arisen from dealings in the estate. In those proceedings, widows and children of the deceased have, without any sense of irony, easily disowned persons who at one time or another they represented to the world to be their co-wives or siblings.

Many of the beneficiaries and their dependants have passed on, substantial part of the estate has been dissipated in the litigation, which has been on-going for over 36 years.

In a ruling dated 28th January 2005, one of the many judges to have dealt with the matter in the High Court, Koome, J. (as she then was) described the family litigation as “a classical theatre of the absurd.” One of the lawyers said the beneficiaries of the deceased seem to have been blessed in many ways, save in the realm of wisdom.

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