SOURCE: Capital News

KISUMU, Kenya, Mar 11 — When her husband died in 1982, Elizabeth Adega, then a young woman, fled her rural home in Kisumu’s Nyando sub-county as the fight for their vast parcel of land set off.

 Over 40 years later, Adega returned and attempted to set up her house on her late husband’s land meeting crude resistance from an alleged buyer. Her case is not unique. While laws protect widow’s inheritance, several widows in Kisumu are facing a similar experience. Grassroots Trust for Community Organization in Kenya, is making a fight back by building community awareness of women’s rights. Lawrence Apiyo, the lobby’s coordinator, opines that the government has done little to protect widows and preserve their right to own land.

“Security of land tenure remains greatly contested. Land access and ownership management and use must therefore be dealt with reasonably to protect the rights of vulnerable living in the urban informal settlements and rural villages,” he saysApiyo says whereas most disposed widows are middle class and can have access to lawyers, poor widows are always left on their own. “We are documenting these cases, we have three similar ones and we are connecting them with a lawyer to pursue justice,” he said.  

‘Irregular sale’

For Adega, her attempts to set up her home in 2023 in line with the Luo customs were scuttled. “When I set out to establish my home on a piece of land belonging to my late husband, I was kicked out and the building materials destroyed by a neighbor,” Adega recalls. The neighbor, a police officer, stormed the land with goons and extinguished a fire that was burning as per the customs to mark the onset of the construction. Adega notes the beacons had been erected on the land, including around an 8-year-old house of her son.

She however contends that her late husband’s only surviving brother could not have legally sold the land to the alleged owner challenging any documents on the purported transaction. Adega claims her in-law is illiterate and at one point was retained as a herder to graze cattle by the family now laying claim on the land. “At some point, he was given Sh30,000 for the land and was not paid in full, but given in bits to buy food, get medicine when he felt sick,” she saysShe is not alone.

Within the Obunga slum, Northeast of Kisumu City, Emily Akoth had to seek refuge in her local church after her in-laws ejected her from her house 6 years after burying her husband. “I buried my husband in 2016 in Kanyakwar and over the years I have been living harmoniously with my in-laws,” she recalls. Trouble started in 2023 when she attempted to renovate her house, which was dilapidated.

"Parallel land registration" 

A mid sobbing, Akoth narrated her ordeal in the hands of her in-laws whom she relied on to help her after burying her husband.



“At one point, someone was sent to remove iron sheets from my roof when I was still sleeping in the morning. I cried out, why am I being vilified,” she says. She failed to get help from the local government administrators who she claims retorted, “Your in-laws are very violent and we can’t handle them”.

Charles Kiwendo, a resident of Nyalenda, says her mother’s house which he inherited was taken away from him in 2007 and he is now living in an abandoned house. “My mother bought the land in the 1970s, when she died in 1995, I came back from Mombasa to inherit the piece of land, where I was living with my family till the post-election violence,” he says. He was ejected and fled to Mombasa with his family only to return and find somebody had put a house in the piece of land. “I checked with the lands office in Kisumu and found a title deed had been issued besides my title, which was not revoked,” he says. Kiwendo would then put a caveat on the land as he pursues the elusive justice to this end, now jolted with a lack of cash to sustain his lawyer.

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