By Dickens Wasonga.
Until last Thursday, Truphena Akoth Otako had a home to live in and land from which to eke out a living. It was also the only inheritance she hoped to bequeath her son and grandchildren.
But in one fell swoop, a ruling by a Siaya court not only took away the home and land she claims has been her late husband’s for the past 48 years, it left her and her family deep in debt.
Widowed, old, destitute and in debt, Truphena can only hope for the State’s — or divine — intervention to save her from her misery.
If both fail, the 95-year-old woman, her son and grandchildren will soon be evicted in line with the court orders. And they will be in even deeper trouble if they fail to raise the Sh50,000 that the court ordered the family to pay as the cost of the suit.
“I have no money to appeal against the court’s decision,” a dejected Truphena told People Daily in an interview at her Jera village, East Ugenya, Siaya county last Saturday.
Her burden is made more unbearable by the circumstances and the people involved in the land saga that has visited suffering on her in her sunset years.
Truphena’s firstborn son Charles Ojwang’ says things began to go wrong for the family in 2015 when his nephew Geoffrey Ochieng’, who is the son of his paternal cousin, filed a suit against the family at the Environment and Land Court in Kisumu. In the suit, he was named as the defendant.
After dragging on in the Kisumu court for years, the matter was transferred to a Siaya court.
In the suit papers, the plaintiff accused the family of the old widow of encroaching on the 3.4-hectare parcel of land.
The plaintiff further claimed the family had interfered with the right of ownership of a portion of the land by putting up a structure without his consent.
He, therefore, sought the court’s orders to evict the family and issue a permanent injunction barring the defendant and his family from encroaching on the land.
He also asked the court to direct the defendant to pay the cost of the suit and general damages.
Last Thursday, the court granted all the prayers sought by the plaintiff, and ordered the defendant to pay Sh50,000, as cost of the suit.
In his judgement, principal magistrate Tom Olando said the plaintiff exhibited a tittle deed and a certificate of confirmation of grant dated March 13, 2012 indicating the parcel number 662 as forming part of the estate of his late father Ansenlmus Ochieng’ Oyugi. The three-page judgement read in part:
The certificate of title issued by the registrar upon registration or to a purchaser of land upon transfer or transmission by the person named as the proprietor shall be taken by all courts as prima facie evidence the person named as the proprietor of the land is the absolute and indefensible owner, in accordance to Section 26(1) of the Land Registration Act.”
But the defendant disagreed with the judgment, saying the judge failed to consider his submission in court during the hearing of the case and failed to understand the history of the land.
He said the court should have sought to know how the title was acquired and registered in the name of his nephew.
In his statement, which was produced in court during the trial of the case, the defendant said his late father, upon inheriting the land built a home in 1967. At the time, the defendant, was only four years old.
“We have lived on the land for 48 years now. The said occupation has been free, open and uninterrupted for all these years until 2015 when my nephew went to court seeking to evict us from the land,” he says in the court papers.
He told People Daily on Saturday that his elderly mother, his late brother’s family, his two wives and children have been living on the land for decades.
He added that his father and his late brother, identified as Otako Oyugi Otako and Marcus Oyugi Otako respectively, were buried on the same piece of land.
Without the financial ability to appeal against the case, Truphena and her son have no choice but wait for the eviction order to be effected.
All they can do is plead with President Uhuru Kenyatta to save them from imminent danger of being rendered homeless.
“We have nowhere to go to. We don’t have money to pay for the court awards. We are poor people who only rely on subsistence farming to survive. We are asking the President to come to our aid in the face of this sad turn of events,” she said.