“Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression.” Nelson Mandela
Fifty-five years ago, Kenya attained her independence. It was dubbed ‘freedom’ from the British government. A new era had dawned; the painful years of oppression were now over. Today, however, the vision of that freedom is slowly starting to fade as greed and corruption have gnawed on our morality to the bone. For instance, numerous stories of mau-mau veterans who are now wallowing in poverty have been featured in the media. The very generation that endured the harsh war for independence is the same we are treating with no sense of gratitude and respect.
This unfortunate fate has befallen 96-year-old Grace Wanjiru Guitati. In an age where the law and general logic recognizes us all as equals, Mrs. Guitati is facing a predicament of discrimination based on her sex. The senior citizen is facing eviction from a piece of land she has occupied for the last 50 years on grounds that the constitution that was in effect at the time she inherited the land does not allow her ownership of the land.
Grace was born in 1922 into a polygamous family of four wives (households). She was the daughter and only child to kamukii’s 3rd wife, Nyaguthii Kamukie. Her father, the late Kamukie Mwethi transferred the ownership of some of his estate to the first and second wives before he died in 1968, by the time of his death the land which Mrs. Guitati occupies was the only one not yet distributed. However, Mr. Kamukie had already settled the two remaining households on the piece of land with each family occupying its specified portion. She lived on the piece of land until 1986; when she was attacked and raped in her own house; an incidence that forced her children to relocate her to the home of one of her daughters, who later died in 1998.
in 1998 Mrs. Guitati’s mother passed leaving the estate to her only heir. At this time Mrs. Guitati was already married. Four years later her step siblings filled an appeal seeking to disinherit Mrs. Guitati on the grounds that she is a married woman. In November 2002 in a ruling delivered by Hon lady Justice K.H. Rawal, the court ordered that as a married daughter Mrs. Guitate is not entitled to a share of her father’s estate, the court further held that Mrs. Guitati’s mother had only life interest on the property and since she was deceased at the time of the ruling the life interest could not pass to her as a married daughter. the judge based her ruling based on kikuyu customary law since her father died before the law of succession act (which gives right of inheritance to women and children caught in the labyrinth of polygamy) commenced.
In July 2006 Mrs. Guitati field an objection on the ruling and a male judge directed the petitioners to indulge her in their decisions as she is a beneficiary too. In July 2010 her step siblings applied t have her objections dismissed on grounds that a ruling on the matter had already been made, in 2016 a review of the ruling was made and the Judge concluded that there was no dispute; that she is their step sister but she cannot inherit.
Mrs. Guitati did not give up since this parcel of land is her only source of livelihood, she has been cultivating food on this land for more than 50 years and if it is not secured she stand the risk of losing her beneficial interests on the land, in June 2017 a judge dismissed her application for review claiming that 14 years is quite a long time for someone not to have filed an appeal, although there is no law in Kenya that limits the time for review. The fact that she is an old woman who has difficulties attending court sessions and can barely afford a lawyer to represent her was not put into consideration, the petitioners have been able to keep this battle against an old vulnerable woman alive for 16 years.
The predicament that Mrs. Guitati is facing has left many wondering what justice really is, the simplest definition is ‘the fair treatment of people’ so is it fair that this 96-year-old widow is spending her golden years fighting an injustice fueled by her gender and personal decision to get married? What is the role of citizens’ representatives in the government? The woman rep of her county Gathoni wa Muchomba was approached to help this elderly lady get justice and her response was that she cannot interfere in the case. What benefits do citizens reap from these leaders who wine and dine on their taxes but will not help in the achievement of justice? If Mrs. Guitati was the mother of a prominent person in Kenya would we still hear such a saddening story? Is the law partial on who to serve leaving the weak in the merciless hands of the oppressors.
Grace Wanjiru Guitati is currently at the risk of eviction from an estate she has been on for more than 50 years, the court is inviting her stepbrothers to disinherit her just because she is a woman, let us remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi when he said, “Of all the evils for which man has made himself responsible, non-is so degrading, so shocking or so brutal as his abuse of the better half of humanity, the female sex.
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