Mzee Muturi Mwihia, 72, has spent the last two years grappling with the unsettling reality of his late wife Anne Wanjiku’s body being held in the mortuary at Kenyatta National Hospital due to a protracted land dispute.
The grieving widower is now appealing to well-wishers for assistance in securing a dignified burial place.
Beside the mortuary bill, which has accrued to Ksh 300,000 as of December 17, 2023, Mzee Mwihia expresses the burden of not being able to accord his late wife a final resting place in a grave where he can visit and lay memorial flowers each year.
“The love for my wife was genuine, and even in her passing, nothing has changed. I would never want to bury her in a public grave. I could mourn for the remaining years of my life, living with the shame of burying her in a place where, in a few short years, her history in my life will be erased through a neglected grave,” Mwihia stated.
If the dispute is resolved while he is alive, Mzee Mwihia notes that whoever provides a burial space for his wife, and wishes to have the body exhumed, “I will do so and take the remains to my home for a proper burial.”
Mwihia informed Taifa Leo that his routine for the past two years has involved dedicating every Monday and Friday as special days to raise fare and visit Kenyatta Hospital mortuary to view his late wife’s body.
The conflict for Mwihia began in 2013 when, lacking any inheritance of land and working as a laborer on coffee farms in Kiambu County, he initiated efforts to purchase land for his retirement and to live out his golden years.
“My wife and I worked hard in our odd jobs, and we found Mr. Ngei Kimuyu, who agreed to sell us a one-acre piece of land for Ksh 500,000 in Lower Ithanga village, Gatanga constituency,” he narrated.
However, after three years, Mr. Kimuyu demanded Mwihia vacate the land, claiming he had not decided to sell it for that amount and thus refused to provide ownership documents.
“Since I didn’t have the money to file a legal objection, and I had already built a house on the land, I refused to leave, enduring one plot after another to evict me,” he said.
With three adult children now, the dispute led to numerous meetings with elders, local government administration, and even the courts, but to date, no resolution has been achieved.
“The conflict persisted until my wife succumbed to stress, eventually passing away in 2021. A court order was issued to halt any burial arrangements on that land, forcing my wife’s body to remain in the mortuary,” he shared.
Mzee Mwihia has endured enough, and despite his wife’s body having decomposed to mere bones, that is not the point for him.
“These are the bones of my beloved, with whom I shared 40 years of marriage,” he expressed.
Mr. Kimuyu suggested an alternative deal to Mwihia, “where I sell the land for Ksh 1.2 million and refund him his Ksh 500,000.”
He feels that the seller came to realize he sold the land at a loss and aimed to rectify his mistake.
“If he agrees to that, he would have acquired another piece of land in an alternative location. He would have a place for his projects and ideas,” Kimuyu stated.
However, Mwihia considers it a trap that could leave him worse off. “If I sell the land and fail to get my money back, I will be in a bigger predicament than I am now,” he remarked.
He also argued that during the ten-year period, “my wife and I, along with our three children, should be considered as employees of the farm, and the house I built should also be assessed.”
Aside from the initial Ksh 500,000 spent on the purchase, he believes that adding that to the equation warrants a compensation of Ksh 3.8 million for him to relinquish the land.