Kenya: Woman With Two Marriage Certificates Loses Sh19 Million Shares in Family Row

A woman whose husband died four years ago will not benefit from Sh19.8 million shares he left behind after a judge ruled that her earlier marriage was still subsisting even after conducting a traditional divorce.

Ms Rose Katunge married Prof Stephen Musembi Nzuve in 2010. This was shortly after she divorced Stephen Masika in a traditional way by returning the bride price -- traditionally together with a goat known as Mbuzi ya Maleo, to mark the dissolution of a marriage.

But Justice Arsenath Ongeri ruled that Ms Katunge's marriage had not been dissolved by the Registrar of Marriages. The court noted that Ms Katunge had two marriage certificates -- the earlier one in which she was married to Mr Masika and later by Prof Nzuve.

RIGHTFUL BENEFICIARIES

In the case, the trustees of the University of Nairobi Pension Scheme, moved to court seeking to determine who should be the rightful beneficiaries of the death benefits amounting to Sh19,800,870.

The court heard that when Prof Nzuve joined the scheme in February 1987, he listed his wife Jacinta Loko and four children, four girls and a son. His wife Jacinta died in 2003 and seven years later, he married Ms Katunge but he never updated his records.

The family was unable to agree on the sharing of the benefits forcing the scheme to file the petition, seeking to determine the rightful beneficiaries and the share to be given to each.

The judge heard that Ms Katunge was married to Mr Masika on February 6, 1998, at the Nairobi Registrar of Marriages' office. She said the man later disappeared for seven years and she divorced him.

TOOK BACK DOWRY

To support her claims, she obtained a letter from the Matungulu chief showing that the marriage was dissolved on December 5, 2001. She also called Mr Masika's mother, uncle and a brother who confirmed that the union was dissolved when she took back the dowry.

In the judgment, Justice Ongeri said Ms Katunge should have dissolved the marriage as required under the law.

"I find that the First Respondent (Ms Katunge) did not have the capacity to enter into marriage with the deceased since her first marriage to Mr Masika was and is still subsisting," the judge said.

He, however, noted her two children, although not sired by Prof Nzuve, were supported by him and should, therefore, be listed as beneficiaries.

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