Kenya: Bitter Sibling Rivalry Plays Out in Battle for Control of Sh20 Billion Family Estate

20 January 2021

The bitter rivalry between two brothers battling over the management and control of a Sh20 billion family estate played out in public on Wednesday with the elder one openly telling a court that he will never withdraw criminal cases he has filed against his younger sibling.

Testifying before Milimani Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku, Mr Fredrick Gitahi Gethenji vowed: "I will never terminate the criminal cases I have lodged against my brother James Ndung'u Gethenji, former Tetu MP."

Gitahi told Ms Mutuku that although their extended family members have been pressing them to withdraw all court cases, both criminal and civil, then resolve the inheritance disputes amicably, he will not give in.

Led in his court testimony by State prosecutor Anderson Gikunda, Gitahi gave a lengthy narration of how the family developed the paradise on earth, Kihingo Village Waridi Gardens Estate in Kitsuru, Nairobi, at a cost of Sh2.5 billion through a loan advanced by the Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA).

Gitahi, who is the third witness to testify against Ndung'u and six others charged with breach of peace and assault, told Ms Mutuku various cases have come up over the control of a Sh5 billion club house which is part of the development.

He said the posh estate comprises 55 palatial homes sold out through leases to various wealthy investors who are supposed to comply with terms and conditions set therein by the vendor - Kihingo Village Waridi Gardens Management One Limited.

Gitahi said Ndung'u's son is the chairman of the management company which sold out the 55 houses.

He said a scuffle erupted when Ndung'u's co-accused went to stop one of the house owners, Kishorkumar Varsani Dhanji, from carrying out renovations in his house although he had sought permission and was allowed.

He remembered Dhanji and lawyer Prof George Wajackoyah, who had visited him, were assaulted in the melee.

He said he called police who arrested the attackers.

He added that on several occasions he had taken police to Ndung'u's house to arrest him although extended family members have intervened to have the matters resolved amicably and all court cases withdrawn.

"We agreed that Ndung'u and I withdraw all the cases in court so as to resolve the issues in dispute amicably," Gitahi told Ms Mutuku.

But he added: "I will not withdraw the criminal and civil cases against Ndung'u because he has refused to meet my demands."

Cross-examined by lawyers Willis Otieno and Ishmael Nyaribo, Gitahi admitted that he had agreed to withdraw both civil and criminal cases against Ndung'u but he said he changed his mind when the latter failed to accede to his demands.

"Ndung'u did not execute part of his bargain by giving me what I wanted so that I could ask the director of public prosecutions to withdraw the complaint and terminate the criminal cases filed against him," Gitahi told Mr Nyaribo.

He admitted in court that he has declined to transfer to Ndung'u his right share and entitlement.

Gitahi's stand will only escalate the court battles, the magistrate heard.

"Have you sold out secretly the club house or you could be expecting money over the same?" Mr Nyaribo asked Gitahi.

"No, I have not sold the club house, aka Bustani, secretly but I have prospects," Gitahi answered.

Asked why he has been advocating giving out freely the multi-billion-shilling club house to lessees of the estate and why he hates his brother Ndung'u, Gitahi stared at the lawyer, then said "please stop asking me that. Just leave it."

Further asked if he thinks their deceased parents would be happy that he has taken Ndung'u to court over inheritance and distribution of the vast estate, he answered: "Even his late father would take him (Ndung'u) to police if he was on the wrong."

He said that even before their mother died, she knew of the court cases.

Gitahi said he had resigned being a director of the management company.

He was replaced by Chacha Mabanga, a house owner at Kihingo.

The case was adjourned to February 17 when five witnesses will testify.

Ndung'u and the six others have denied creating a disturbance and assaulting Mr Dhanji and Prof Wajackoyah on July 2, 2019. They are out on a cash bail of Sh20,000.

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