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Dust settles on mystery roof as land row resolved

By Harold Odhiambo | June 13th 2021

The roof that has been lying by the roadside at Otonglo in Kisumu county along Kisumu-Kisian road for four years now.[Collins Oduor,Standard]

The family of a man whose body has been lying in the mortuary for eight years can now breathe a sigh of relief.

A Kisumu Magistrate’s court yesterday made a ruling in favour of Barack Ogada’s family over the ownership of the parcel of land on which they had intended to bury him.

Only the roof of the house that was constructed for Ogada prior to his burial in 2017 remained on the piece of land after the house was destroyed.

The parcel of land near Tiengre in Kisumu West, has been the subject of controversy. 

Previous attempts in 2014 and 2017 to bury him on the land were futile, following court injunctions that saw the body exhumed and returned to the mortuary.

The roof was not removed from the piece of land even after people deserted it after the exhumation in 2017.

Yesterday, Senior Resident Magistrate Winfred Onkunya declared that the parcel belonged to the late Ogada’s family, paving way for a new twist in the protracted case.

In the suit, James Onunga had laid claim to the parcel, claiming that he bought it in 1986 from Francis Agoo, who was Ogada’s grandfather.

He had sued four of Ogada’s relatives and had accused them of encroaching on his land and asked the court to stop his burial there.

He further told the court that he became the registered owner of the parcel in 1990 and received its title deed in 1995. 

Disputed land

“In 2014, I was informed that someone was being buried on my land.

“There is no way they can bury someone not related to me there without consulting me,” said Onunga.

The body was exhumed from the parcel shortly after the burial and returned to the mortuary.

A similar attempt to inter the body three years later also failed.

The family had been hoping to convince the court to allow them to bury the body on the disputed land and had claimed the documents Onunga presented before the court were invalid.

Ogada’s kin narrated the painful ordeal they have endured since his death in 2014.

A group of youth when they exhumed the body of the late Ogada Ouko at Tiengre in Kisumu county on May 23, 2014, following a court order over a land dispute.[Collins Oduor]

They claimed their attempts to inter the body had subjected them to ridicule, more so after it was exhumed.

Four relatives who testified in the case narrated to the court the ordeal they have gone through in their quest to have their kin buried.

They claimed that the parcel of land belonged to Ogada’s grandfather and had not been transferred to another person.

Jessica Ogada, the widow, told the magistrate that the land belonged to her late husband’s family and demanded to be compensated because of the amount of money she has spent in her quest to bury him.

Ms Ogada narrated to the court how their attempt to bury the deceased on the parcel of land in 2014 turned chaotic and her husband’s body had to be returned to the mortuary.

“When we brought the body for burial in 2014, Onunga came with police officers and took away the body and returned it to the mortuary,” said Ms Ogada.

Returned to mortuary

The family claimed that after the body was returned to the morgue, they obtained a court order allowing them to conduct a burial on the same parcel of land.

The court heard that Onunga came back after a month, exhumed the body and returned it to the mortuary.

“I was jailed in Kodiaga Prison for one month after the burial,” said Ms Ogada.

The court heard that a house that was constructed for the deceased prior to his burial was destroyed, while the construction of another house there had stalled.

In her judgment, Magistrate Onkunya said that Onunga had failed to prove his case and directed that the title deed be reverted to the name of Ogada’s grandfather.

“An order is hereby issued directing the land registrar to cancel the title deed registered in the names of the plaintiff, James Onunga, and instead register the title in the names of Francis Ago (deceased),” said Onkunya.

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