The battle for control of the late Nyeri Governor Wahome Gakuru’s assets is now playing out in the corridors of justice between the deceased’s widow Catherine Kirumba and a woman named Wangui Mwaura, who claims to be her co-wife.
The estate, valued at about Sh55 million, comprises two prime parcels of land in Kiambu Municipality and Ngong measuring half acre and one acre, respectively.
Other properties at the centre of the dispute are three motor vehicles and an undisclosed amount of shares at Kengen, Kenya-Re and Safaricom, documents filed at the High Court in Nyeri indicate.
Ms Mwaura, 29, had one child with the deceased and wants a stake in the estate on grounds that she is also his widow. She is opposed to Ms Kirumba’s decision to exclude her from the list of the governor’s survivors.
Mr Gakuru died in a tragic road accident at Makenji area on the Nyeri-Nairobi highway on the morning of November 7, 2017 while being driven to the city to participate in a radio talk show.
The former boss of the Vision 2030 development blueprint had served for 76 days in one of the most coveted political offices, having lost in 2013 to the late Nderitu Gachagua.
A public inquest into his death recently heard that Mr Gakuru had been pursuing a divorce from Ms Kirumba since 2013, but by time he died the case was yet to be heard.
In an application for letters of administration of the estate, Ms Kirumba listed four people as the only dependants of the deceased governor’s estate — her three sons and herself. She also listed them as the only survivors of the deceased.
Ms Mwaura had earlier applied to have the case transferred from Nyeri to the Nairobi Family Division Court in Milimani.
“The applicant is unemployed and taking care of her son alone and is struggling to support the legal cost and other incidentals that are incurred in maintaining the cause in Nyeri. Cost of travelling to Nyeri to hear the matter and for mention is very high,” stated Ms Mwaura.
She had also argued that hearing the matter in Nyeri would cause her undue hardship and impede her right to access justice in the succession battle.
“The applicant is seeking to protect her interest and that of her son, who is in danger of completely being disinherited from the estate. It is not in dispute the property is located in Nairobi,” she stated through her lawyers Musyimi & Company Advocates.
But Justice Abigail Mshila declined to have the case transferred to Nairobi terming the application premature and incompetent. She also found that Ms Mwaura was yet to become a party in the succession proceedings though she had an intention. In the application, Ms Mwaura had listed Ms Kirumba and her elder son Gakuru Wangai, 21, as the respondents.
After the governor’s death, Ms Mwaura moved to the High Court in Nairobi with a miscellaneous application on her son’s rights to participate in the funeral of the deceased. She had sought the court’s intervention because Ms Kirumba had refused to acknowledge her status and that of her child.
But on November 17, 2017, the two women entered into consent that Ms Mwaura’s son be included as a dependant of the deceased. This was on condition that a DNA test to confirm paternity of the child be conducted and his birth certificate verified.
The DNA test conducted by Lancet Kenya turned positive, meaning Ms Mwaura’s child was found to be the deceased’s biological offspring.
“The results were provided to the respondent. We tried reaching out to the respondent’s advocates to discuss the issue surrounding succession. However, we got no positive response,” read the court documents.
Ms Mwaura submitted that Ms Kirumba’s move to omit her in the application for the letters of administration was in contravention of the consent.
“The deceased had two households — one with Ms Kirumba with three sons and a second house with the applicant with one son. Giving a sum of six dependents,” stated Ms Mwaura.
She learnt she had been excluded in the estate succession when she went to file a citation in the Nairobi (probate) registry and was informed there was already a petition for letters of estate administration filed in Nyeri on September 6, 2018.
However, Ms Kirumba, through her lawyers Kitheka & Company Advocates, in response, questioned Ms Mwaura’s grounds for demand of a stake in the estate.
“I am a stranger to and I deny allegation of a relationship between the deceased and Ms Mwaura. The succession cause was filed in Nyeri because the deceased lived and worked in Nyeri before his demise,” stated Ms Kirumba. After the governor’s death, Ms Kirumba was issued with a letter by a village chief in Nyeri as evidence of her relationship with the deceased.
She was also of the view that before seeking a share of the properties, the legitimacy of the alleged relationship between the deceased and Ms Mwaura should be determined by the court.
“The applicant must wait for determination of her legitimacy to be ascertained by the court,” she stated.
Governor Gakuru was popularly known in Nyeri as “PhD” because he had a PhD in Public Administration and Policy from Arizona State University. He also had two master’s degrees — one from Willamette University and another from the University of Nairobi.
Mahakamani News is Kenya’s top court reporting and crime coverage website. If you have a case that needs coverage, or if you are facing injustice from powerful forces, fired unfairly or reporting any corruption or relevant news pertaining judiciary etc please contact us via email@example.com