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In death, 'lion of Nzatani' has never known peace

 Former Nairobi Provincial Police Chief Timothy Mwandi Muumbo. [Courtesy]

Former Nairobi Provincial Police Chief Timothy Mwandi Muumbo's pet name was The Lion.

Perhaps the son of Nzatani's rumble and rule reverberated, sending shivers down the spines of anyone who came across him and maybe he commanded enormous respect, thus, the lion of Nzatani. By any measure, he was powerful, wealthy, and articulately ran his affairs when life pumped through his system.

However, upon his death, his kingdom and pride are in disarray. When he died, he hoped for a quiet exit from the earth and join his ancestors without a delay, surrounded by his family and friend. After all, he had nothing remaining to do around.

Today, he is lying in the grave after spending time in the cold compartments of Lee Funeral home for years, waiting for the day his children would at least agree on something.

How much fighting is too much?

Muumbo, a billionaire, is a poster boy of how unending court battles are costly and emotionally rending. Despite commanding a net worth of around Sh1 billion, he helplessly waited for five years for courts to determine his final resting place, and when he was buried, the morgue fees were a loan and he remained in debt.

When he died on June 22, 2015, he had Sh1.2 million in cash in his house. However, trouble immediately started over where he was to be interred; whether it would be next to his first wife at his ancestral home in Nzatani, or another farm in Mbakini.

Muumbo was polygamous. His first wife was Phiatah Kathumbi who he married in 1957. They had 10 children and resided in Nzatani Village, Mwingi. The two parted ways in 1976 after Kathumbi discovered he had a second wife Josephine Kioko who he lived with in Narok, then Kakamega and finally in Kileleshwa, Nairobi. The second wife had five children.

Large family

Muumbo and Kathumbi however never divorced. His three children Johnstone Kasim Muumbo, Alex Munyasya Muumbo and Carolyn Kalunde Muumbo sued their eldest brother Billy Mbuvi Muumbo and stepbrother Mwinzi Muumbo,

This war started in the magistrate's court and escalated to the High Court.

One side, Kasim, Munyasya and Kalunde called 11 witnesses to support their argument that he should be buried in Nzatani, their ancestral home, next to his first wife.

On the other, Mbuvi and Mwinzi called eight witnesses to buttress their argument that he wanted to be buried in Mbakini, where his second wife was buried, according to a will produced in court. The intrigues of the case involved the supremacy of a will and Kamba culture.

After hearing the parties, Justice Margaret Muigai overruled Mbuvi and Mwinzi and ordered that Muumbo should be buried at Nzatani. She ruled that the land was accessible to all children and family while Mbakini was not open to all.

"Although the custom is not mandatory if the wish of the deceased is not clear or known then the closest person(s) shall bury the deceased and it may be on ancestral land or his land as the family agrees. The relationship with the deceased's wives though relevant is not the predominant factor," Justice Muigai ruled.

She also held since Mbuvi was the eldest son, he was to lead all the deceased's children to bury him and was to facilitate settlement of outstanding mortuary fees. This was on August 6, 2018.

Justice Muigai also ordered Muumbo's cousin to chair the funeral meetings. The judge noted that the acrimony in the family stemmed from Muumbo and his two wives. According to the judge, Kathumbi's house, save for her eldest son Mbuvi watched helplessly as they grew up unaware of the circumstances, their mother struggling and lonely.

They lived with her and were educated but as they grew up, they painfully saw her deteriorate in age, health and general well-being and when they were older and able helped her the best way they knew how, perhaps not always correctly.

On the other hand, Josephine's children suffered resentment from Kathumbi's house as they were deemed to be more advantaged and in close proximity to the patriarch to their (first house) disadvantage.

Justice Muigai found Muumbo tried to reconcile his children but upon his death, they retreated into their houses and used the death to settle scores.

"Instead the children of the deceased have stepped into the shoes of their respective parents and continue zealously to protect each parent's right and/or attempt to resolve the family dispute. In the process they have all used the deceased's burial as means of settling scores instead of prioritizing a respectful and decent burial of their late father," she ruled.

"As human beings, they may have made mistakes that affected the family, but they passed on and the family can only move forward as the deceased pledged in the video recording, reconcile and live in harmony. Therefore, priority shall be to bury the deceased."

The judgement did not end the fight. Some 24 days after the judgment, Mbuvi and Mwinzi went back to Justice Muigai. This time, they wanted her out of the succession case, and also asked her to set aside her judgment on the burial grounds. They argued that their siblings had prior to the judgment bragged that she would tilt the scales of justice in their favour.

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