Family feud leads to uprooting of 45-acre tea plantation in Kericho

A man uprooting tea at a farm in Kericho County. [File, Standard]

A 45-acre tea plantation has been uprooted in Chepsir, Kericho County, over a family dispute.

The rift between the two brothers and their seven sisters escalated after a High Court judge ruled that the property left behind by their late father, Jonathan Kipsang Ngeno, be shared equally.

The family members are also fighting over shares in tens of blue chip companies comprised of banks, Saccos, and Safaricom Company.

The conflict started when Gilbert Kiprono, his brothers Richard Kipkemoi, Kenneth Kiprotich, and Robert Kibet failed to adhere to a court ruling of February 1, 2024, that directed the land and other properties be shared equally among the 12 family members.

The Sang sisters, led by Viviline Cherotich, Alice Koech, Nancy Chepkemoi, Maritim, Jane Koech, Irine Chepngeno, and Gladys Chelangat, moved to enforce the decision of the court.

A week ago, a drama played out at the Chepsir property as the sisters led by Cherotich, accompanied by the Officer Commanding Chepseon Station, OCS Kuresoi Station, and Kericho Land Surveyor, and the Nakuru counterpart visited, surveyed, and subdivided the parcel of land. 

The property included L.R No. Kericho/ Kipkelion/ Chepseon Block 4/123, L.R No.Kericho/ Chepsir/13,L.R No. Kericho/Milk South/IKumbi Block 6/19, L.R Kericho /Chepsir/53,L.R. No. Kericho/Municipal Block No.1/65 and Chepsir Cooperative Society Plot in line with the confirmation of the grant issued by the court.

On February 1, 2024, Kericho High Court judge Justice Joseph Sergon ordered the deputy registrar of the court to execute mutation and transfer forms for purposes of affecting the final distribution of the estate of the deceased.

Ngeno's advocate, Caleb Koech, said the uprooting of the tea bushes at the Chepsir farm was in to allow his client and her sisters to plant a new variety of tea after each of them got at least six acres of the Chepsir property.

In his judgment, Justice Sergon emphasized the absence of evidence indicating their father's prior distribution of assets before his demise in 2020 at the age of 88.

 He invoked the Law of Succession Act, mandating the distribution of the estate among beneficiaries as per the legal statutes.

The judge dismissed claims by the protesting siblings alleging prior allocation of land to their sisters, citing lack of substantiation.

 "I believe in the absence of evidence...the only course open to this court is to distribute the estate per Section 38 of the Law of Succession Act,” said Justice Sergon.

 Furthermore, Justice Sergon rebuked proposals put forth by the brothers, labeling them discriminatory and unfair. 

 “The proposals aimed to allocate larger portions to certain beneficiaries under the guise of prior distribution by the deceased. Such assertions are an attempt to unjustly disinherit other siblings while enriching others,” he said.

Among the poignant testimonies presented was that of Viviline Cherotich, who was represented in court by the law firm of Bett and Company advocate. 

Ngeno, through her advocate Caleb Koech, recounted caring for her father in one of his properties after separating from her husband. 

 “Following the petitioner’s father's passing, she faced coercion from her brothers to vacate the property, leading to disruptive acts such as roadblocks, water disconnections, and destruction of her garden. The incident was reported at Chepseon police station,” said Justice Sergon.

Justice Sergon, therefore, ordered that the parcel of land known as Kericho/Kipkelion/Chepseon Block. 4 (Chepseon)/124 approximately 43.10 ha be divided equally among the twelve beneficiaries as well as Kericho/Chepsir/13 approximately 33.5 ha and Molo South/Ikumbi Block G/19 9 Set Kobor) approximately 14.13 ha 

He also ordered Highland Sacco, Commercial Bank Limited, KTDA, Standard Chartered Bank¸ National Industrial Credit Limited, ICDC Investment Ltd, Jupiter Insurance Co. Ltd¸ ABSA Bank¸ Brooke Bond, NIC Bank and Cooperative Bank, Safaricom among other company shares to be divided equally among the 12 beneficiaries.

Justice Sergon ordered that all the estate monies held in various bank accounts and under unclaimed assets be used to meet the statutory dues and the legal fees.

“If after settling the statutory dues and legal fees, a balance of the aforesaid monies remains, the same should be shared equally amongst the twelve beneficiaries,” he said.