It has been described as ‘an unending circus’ and ‘possibly Kenya’s most intriguing family dispute’, either way the 32-year legal battle to decide who gets what out of the multi-billion shilling estate of the late former Cabinet minister Mbiyu Koinange is a sorry tale in which ultimately probably only the lawyers will benefit.
SH10 BILLION AT STAKE
Since the first suit was filed in the case in 1981 (Succession suit No 527) the battle has been between the potential beneficiaries (and their lawyers) to divide up an inheritance estimated to be in the region of Sh10 billion, involving prime land and shares in some of Kenya’s top companies.
THE WHEELS OF JUSTICE
Over those three decades nearly all of the now leading figures in Kenya’s judiciary have at some point been involved, including most of today’s judges in the High Court and Court of Appeal.
There have also been a further 50 parallel suits filed over the years accompanied by a plethora of applications and consent orders. There are now at least 15 lawyers involved who represent family members and others but little progress has been made in resolving the issue.
Meanwhile, some lawyers have been alleged to have got their hands on millions of shillings from the estate and there has even been an allegation that one lawyer has run off with a title deed to some prime land.
“THEATRE OF THE ABSURD”
The Sunday Nation report (July 7) by Benson Wambugu quotes Court of Appeal judge Martha Koome speaking eight years ago in a ruling, who said: “I am sorry this court file and the tactics employed by the parties and their advocates can only be likened to the classical theatre of the absurd”.
JARNDYCE v JARNDYCE
The Kenya Forum however, would draw the parallel with the famous fictional case of Jarndyce vs Jarndyce in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House in which the legal battle over a large inheritance dragged on for so many years that the legal costs swallowed up the entire estate.
Family members and others hoping to inherit from the late Mbiyu Koinange take note!