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Bad blood among Koinange kin derails 40-year-old succession battle

COUNTIES
By Kamau Muthoni | April 20th 2021

Mbiyu Koinange.

Deep-seated resentment is the sole reason the late former Cabinet minister Mbiyu Koinange’s family cannot end their succession wars, a court has observed.

Family Court Judge Aggrey Muchelule, while determining yet another feud on who should manage billions of shillings Koinange left behind, noted that the relationship between the family members was too toxic. Justice Muchelule pointed out that this explains why cases among the Koinanges are not ending even after the court distributed the estate last year.

According to the judge, despite the family members knowing how much they will get as inheritance, they still want to fight.

“I note that this whole case showed me that there was so much anger in this family. The main reason this dispute took this long to resolve was because of the animosity that exists in the family. So that, if Barbara Wambui Koinange and Lennah Wanjiku Koinange do not see eye to eye it is not peculiar to them,” the judge observed last week.

The patriarch had four wives, Loise Njeri Mbiyu, Ruth Damaris Wambui Mbiyu, Margaret Njeri Mbiyu and Eddah Wanjiru Mbiyu. Njeri and Ruth died in 1966 and 2010, respectively. Each of them left children.

After 40 years of fight, the court appointed administrators to the estate: David Njunu Koinange (representing the first house), David Waiganjo Koinange (representing the second house) Margaret Njeri Mbiyu (representing the third house) and Eddah Wanjiru Mbiyu (representing the fourth house).

However, Waiganjo died on September 10, last year. His son’s widow Joyce Njeri and only surviving sister Wanjiku sought to have the latter be the administrator to represent the second house.

According to court papers, all members of the second house supported the application to have Wanjiku as the administrator save for her niece, Barbara Wanjiku Koinange, who accused the aunt of treating her like a stranger in the family.

Barbara does not believe her aunt will transmit what she is entitled to.

Her application was supported by Eddah and Njunu, who accused Wanjiku of illegally obtaining money from third parties in respect of Closeburn Estate, claiming that she owns the estate. Secondly, she allegedly transferred 80 acres of Closeburn Estate to herself. Lastly, the trio argued that there was a ruling delivered on November 19, 2009 which determined that she was not suitable to administer the estate.

Mbiyu Koinange.

Can’t determine administrator

Wanjiku defended herself saying the dispute between the family members had been settled and she had been found by the court to have transferred 35.85 acres without the court’s authority and had returned the parcel. She also admitted that she had sold some two acres of Closeburn Estate to Monicah and which she promised she would cede once she got her share.

According to her, she was not the only one who had meddled with the late minister’s estate.

The judge ruled that the other houses cannot determine who the administrator of the second house will be. On Barbara’s objection, he said that she knows how much she will get and Wanjiku will be taken to account for anything she does that is against the court order.

“The good news is that the estate has now been shared, and Barbara Wambui Koinange knows what is due to her. The administrators have a statutory responsibility to make sure she gets her stated share. The law commands that the administrators will ultimately account to the court if they fail in this responsibility. In conclusion, I allow the two applications and appoint Lennah Wanjiku Koinange alias Lennah Catherine Koinange to replace the late David Waiganjo Koinange as the administrator representing the second house in the estate of the deceased Mbiyu Koinange,” he ruled.

The late minister, who served in Jomo Kenyatta’s government for 16 years, passed away on September 3, 1981. His widows and 18 children have tussled over his estate now estimated to be close to Sh17.4 billion for close to four decades.

Mbiyu Koinange’s widow Eddah Wanjiru during the submissions at Nakuru High court on 08-10-2014. [File, Standard]

Tactics employed

Nearly all the judges in the High Court and Court of Appeal, save for those recently recruited, have in one way or another dealt with the Koinange succession suit. So have those who went home by either retirement or being dismissed by the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board.

The case was also at one point heard by former Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal. It is among the most unique and epic succession cases in Kenya’s history as more than 50 separate cases have been filed since the initial case moved to the corridors of justice.

For nearly 40 years, since succession suit No 527 was filed in court in 1981 to resolve the distribution of the property to the beneficiaries of the powerful minister, the toxic family has affected efforts to settle the matter.

It is also one of the cases in which several lawyers, who were representing the feuding parties in court, have made a lot of money.

Court of Appeal Judge Martha Koome, when she sat as a High Court judge, described the long-drawn war among the Koinanges and their lawyers as an endless show.

 “I am sorry to state that going through this court file, and the tactics employed by the parties and their advocates, the case can only be likened to the classical theatre of the absurd,” Justice Koome said in her ruling dated January 28, 2005.

She added: “It is a shame that 24 years after the death, there seems to be no end in sight. Numerous applications and consent orders have been recorded but very little progress has been made towards the distribution of the estate to the beneficiaries.”

Justice Harold Platt was first appointed an interim administrator of the estate on November 13, 1981. The estate battle has been a circus that has drawn politicians and lawyers into an abyss of blame.

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