The tales of 3 widows of Siaya who have waited for close to 40 years to get justice over a land dispute .
Posted by African Press International on July 27, 2016
By Our Investigative Reporter.
They are widows . In 1958, a man they loved so much, died. Soon after his demise, trouble began.
A family which once lived in harmony under his leadership, was now in turmoil as greed for property sets in.
The widows’ step sons hatched a plot to throw them out of the family land.
They not only lost the right to til the land, left behind by their late husband, but they were disinherited completely .
Now they live as destitutes even at their advanced age.
They continue to wait for justice.
They have been forced to reside at a nearby trading center called Jera, in rented shanties
Here they cant even afford the monthly house rent which is now paid for by well-wishers since they are too poor to afford to pay.
This is the sad story of the three widows of Siaya, a tale of how families turn against widows and disinherit them upon the death of their loved ones . The wheels of justice however, seems to take forever to turn in their favor.
Merita Achola 87 had three children from the marriage.
Two sons and a girl. They all died . she was the second wife.
When her husband, the late Mzee Otak Olang’o died, she had a small grass thatched hut built on the now disputed land.
One night, following a heavy storm, her hut that gave her refuge was struck by thunder.
She was lucky to have escaped with her life from the fire.
However this would also be the beginning of her woes.
Without a house, she sought refuge in the home of one of her siblings in Uyoma.
After two years, she came back after an NGO, HOPE WELL, which was helping widows and orphans in Sega, agreed to build a home for her.
But her step sons would never let her be resettled where her former house stood.
The NGO had brought with them building materials for the exercise which was stopped by her step sons from the first wife.
Apparently, behind the back of all these widows, the step sons had gone to the high Court in Kisumu and did succession of the deceased property.
The sons later went to the land office in Ukwala and allegedly altered details and records and now, the land in East Ugenya Ward was registered in their names excluding the other widows and their children who had a legal right to claim the estate.
After she was locked out of the land, the 87 year old widow now lives at a small desolate tin house at Jera trading center in Ukwala sub county.
She can’t farm on the ancestral land because she no longer have the right to own the land.
Given advanced age, she can’t even engage in any meaningful income generating activity . She depends entirely on well-wishers to survive. This is not sustainable anymore.
What worries her most is where her body will be laid to rest when she finally bows out this race called life. Her situation is that desperate.
Her other co-wife Agnes Akong’o 85 is equally worried.
She too learnt that none of the parcels left behind by their late husband is in her name.
She bore four children in the marriage.
Three sons and a daughter. All her sons died in the early 70s.
The only surviving child, her daughter, died recently, but she was already married in a village in Sega.
Her late daughter left behind 5 children who can’t even dare set foot in the ancestral land .
Turfena Akoth Otako 79, the last wife of the late Mzee Otako had two sons from the marriage.
One died .The surviving one , who is married with four grown up children are now squatters in a parcel of land that once belonged to his father.
Together with his mother, they have been disinherited by their step brothers.
In 2004 , one of the step sons visited the last wife of the Otakos and gave her instructions not to farm on the land , a 1.1 acres piece of land which she had her home since the death of her husband.
Disturbed by this new development, she reported the matter to the police in Jera. They advised her to take the matter to the ministry of lands in Ukwala.
But before the matter could be determined by the court, a group of people claiming to be auctioneers stormed the widows home,reportedly acting on instructions of one of the step sons .
The ‘auctioneers’ took six cows from her home and threatened to kill her if she dared report the matter to the authorities.
When she sought help from the nearby police patrol base at Bar Ober, she was told to go to Sega.
But the officers there told her she had been robbed because “auctioneers ” would not have effected any court order without involving the local administrators or the police .
” We later learned that the said auctioneers were people from Uganda. We still don’t understand how auctioneers from a neighbouring country would effect court order in Kenya. They threatened us with guns as they took way my only source of livelihood ” said the widow.
She took her step son to court over the issue but that matter too is still pending before a Kisumu court.
Sometimes she can’t attend court because of the long distance and without money for bus fare.
Now her son and his five children are landless. They have nothing to their name and they only hope that some miracle will happen to end their misery .
Speaking last week to this journalist the area clan elder Mzee George Oduor said he has tried to solve the land dispute in vain.
He said that when the matter began, he tried to amicably solve it through dialogue among the siblings but his efforts failed because the step sons wouldn’t recognize him .
” I know the history of this land dispute. It has gone on for years. It was wrong for children from the first wife to have registered the entire estate under their name in total disregard to the other children and their mothers.” Said the clan elder.
He recalls that at one point, he reported the matter to the local assistant chief who convened a meeting at the disputed land but he alleged that the sons disrupted the function. They had little regards for the assistant chief.
Without any help he together with the agrieved family members took the matter to the area chief .
However, to their dismay, the administrator told them nothing could be done because the land had a tittle deed registered in the name of the step sons as the owners.
Why can’t the land office in Ukwala revoke these titles even after it has become obvious that a section of the family risk losing what should have been shared out equally?
Why would a legal issue take decades to complete so that parties get justice? Isn’t Justice delayed is justice denied? These are the questions that the widows of siaya are still waiting for its answers from the relevant authorities .
On Monday last week the area DO visited the village to listen to the widows of sirindo village.
This, they say is now their last hope. The DO is a lady, and it is her gender that their little hope now hangs on.
” As a fellow woman, we hope she will listen to our grievances and act. We too need justice just like the other Kenyans” said one of the widows
Earlier before the DO arrived, one of the step sons accused of being behind the alteration of the land records to disinherit the widows tried to stop this writer from interviewing the victims.
” Who are you and what do you want here? Do u know who owns this land you are stepping on and who invited you here.?” The furious man demanded .
But after being reminded that the writer was only visiting to unearth the truth, he left but not before dismissing the account given by the widows as malicious.
” there is a hidden agenda in this whole thing. You are being misled ” he remarked .
He even claimed that he was not aware of the visit by the DO because he was allegedly not invited. Efforts to have him give us his side of the story was futile since he did not want to talk to a journalist that he never invited in the first place.
As he continued to pace up and down from his home to the venue of the meeting by the DO, one wonders just how long these helpless widows will wait for justice.