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Freedom fighter loses battle for land to wife

By Kamau Muthoni | October 31st 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

A polygamous man who abandoned his first wife in the 1960s, only to resurface in 2016, has been barred from distributing 35 acres of land on which his first wife lives.

Yesterday, Justice Roselyn Wendoh of the High Court ruled that the man code-named in court documents BMK has no right to either sell or subdivide the land to his three other wives.

The first wife has been code-named TNM.

Interestingly, BMK’s name appears on the land title deed despite TNM being recognised as the buyer of the land.

The story between the two started sometime in 1952, when they got married in Embu. Shortly thereafter, BMK left his wife, TNM, with a child and entered the forest to fight for Kenya’s independence.

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He was arrested and detained by the colonial rules until 1958. All that time, TNM was left to raise their first born son.  

In 1964, after independence had been won, TNM joined BMK and the couple moved to Ol Kalau, Nyandarua County, where they bought the contested land from the government through a loan. They also had four more children.

Afterwards, BMK immediately moved back to Embu and married three other wives. TNM was again left alone, this time raising five children and servicing the loan. TNM testified that she repaid the loan from profits she made by milk and farm produce.

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Being a diligent wife, and the law then barring her from owning property, she had the title registered under his name. They never divorced. When their first born son died, BMK never attended the funeral.

TNM explained that her husband had other properties in Embu and Kirinyaga. She said they both acquired the properties before her co-wives came into the picture. She also stressed that she was not interested in the properties.  

TNM had asked the court to declare that the land in Ol Kalau, where she also built a house 25 years ago, belongs to her and her children. 

BMK urged the court to dismiss the case. He explained that he bought the land and was entitled to decide what should happen to it.

He claimed that his second wife had lived on the property for two years but he moved to another place after she fell sick.

He also claimed that he had given his first wife money to build the house and even showed their sons other sections of the land where they can build their houses.

BMK admitted that he never tilled the land. He also denied abandoning her for long.

The judge heard that according to Kikuyu culture, the man was entitled to divide the property among his wives and children as he sees fit.

He said that he had other properties including a 10-acre piece of land in Embu which he sold to pay his medical bills.

While making the judgement in favour of TNM, Justice Wendoh averred that the man admitted he did made no contributions towards buying the land and only paid short visits to TNM.

In fact, the judge noted that the longest the man had been in the contested property was three months.

According to Wendoh, although the woman was not divorced, the court needed to intervene and protect her rights to the land.

“Although the defendant was the allottee of the land, he is said to have visited the property rarely. The defendant was so rare that he even missed his own son’s funeral,” said Wendoh.

“I am satisfied that the plaintiff has demonstrated that though the title was not in her name, she repaid the loan to the Settlement Fund Trustee and has substantially contributed to the said property. The defendant never really rebutted the plaintiff’s evidence. Indeed, the defendant did admit that he never tilled the said land nor did he pay for it.”

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