A woman's desperate quest to save family's land 20 years on

Twenty years can seem like an eternity to wait for justice. When a 27-year-old woman lost her mother, 76, all she wanted was some space to mourn her.

This was never to be. Instead, upon her supple shoulders was thrust a burden of administering her mother’s estate. Her job, was to be easy, or so she thought. Her mother, Njoki Mbugua had cleared the last hurdle as Kiambu senior resident magistrate’s court had validated her claim to 2.65 acres of land in Ndumberi, Kiambu county in 2002. 

By the time Grace Nduta became an administrator of her mother’s estate after the matriach’s death in December 2003, little did she know that she was inheriting a nightmare that would almost cost her life and render her homeless and destitute. 

Today, Nduta rues the day she bid a tearful goodbye to her mother, on December 2, 2003. 

The previous day, Njoki’s body had momentarily disappeared from the mortuary. 

She was later interred next to her mother, Muthoni Mbugua. However even before the flowers on her mother’s grave had withered, Njoki tasted what fate had in store for her. 

A few hours after the burial, the grave was desecrated, flowers and the cross uprooted by vandals who had even tried to exhume Njoki’s body.

“It took the intervention of the police and the local administration to refill the half-dug grave. From that day, December 3, 2003, I was chased out of the land.”

Long before Njoki died, she had been embroiled in an inheritance row with a stepson, Kiarie Mbugua, under whose name the entire piece of land measuring 6 acres in Ndumberi was registered. 

Muthoni Mbugua was claiming 2.65 acres of that land, maintaining, backed by the elder’s court that Kiarie was holding it in trust.

After Njoki’s demise, Nduta filed a succession case and was granted letters to administer her mother’s estate on November 20, 2007, by High Court Judge, Maureen Odero. 

According to the grant, Nduta was to ensure that the 2.65 acres of land was equitably divided among the five siblings where each was to get a quarter acre each.

Sometime in 1999, Njoki Mbugua had filed a case at the principal magistrate's court in Kiambu which was ultimately decided on 2002 where Kiarie’s claim to the entire piece of land was invalidated.

Senior Resident Magistrate J.G. Kingori made the decision on January 25, 2002, after listening to Njoki’s application. The objector, Kiarie was not in court and was not represented.

This decision was later upheld by Senior Resident Magistrate, TB Nyangenya on June 3 2019. In his ruling, the magistrate directed the land registrar, Kiambu County to comply and satisfy the judgment of 2005. 


“It is hereby ordered/decreed that the land parcel no. Ndumberi/402 which was subdivided into new numbers 1950, 1951, 1952,1953, 1954 and 1955 be revoked and to remain in the old numbers  Ndumberi/Ndumberi 402 and Njoki  Mbugua to get her one and a half acres.”

The court had further directed that another piece of land, Ndumberi / Ndumberi/ T136 to be subdivided equally between Nkoji Mbugua and Kiarie Mbugua.

On May 31, 2019, Nduta’s lawyers, Ochanda Onguru and company advocates wrote to the land registrar thus:

”We attach a decree dated February 15, 2002, signed by SRM J.G Kingori for your further action. Our client is available for the purposes of compliance with the requisite steps to effect the subdivision and shall avail surveyors and sign the mutation form for the purposes of effecting the order of the court and earlier judgment.”

Twenty-two years later and after numerous reminders and knocking on doors of government offices, no action has been taken.

On the graves of her grandmother, Muthoni, her mother Njoki as well as siblings, Peter Ngugi, Serah Wambui, James Ndungu and Samuel Mbugua now stands some houses by developers. 

The graves have been flattened and Njoki’s claimants have no access.

Some churches and private companies have also bought some plots in the disputed land. 

One such developer, Paul Mungai Kimani, who has established a feeds factory on a quarter-acre piece of land said that he bought the land in 2013 from some family members but was not aware that the courts had ordered the annulment of the titles which had been hived off the old one. 

The chief for Ndumberi location, Mr John Thiongo when asked whether he was aware of Nduta’s disinheritance responded via short text message.

 “Let’s meet in the office Monday 10.00am. Please come with her and any information or documents in your position. Good weekend”