The Mwendwas: How Family of Former CJ is Embroiled in a Bitter Inheritance Row

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United by blood, divided by riches. The family's daughter, Kavinya (left) accuses her mother and brother of giving her a raw deal in inheritance of her father's property.

The family of the late Chief Justice Kitili Mwendwa is embroiled in a bitter inheritance row over the control of the multimillion estate that he left. Mwendwa served as Kenya’s Chief Justice between 1968 and 1971 before he resigned after a fallout with Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta.

The former CJ made history as Kenya’s first African Chief Justice. He was a man with acerbic wit having attended prestigious institutions of learning such as Exeter and Oxford University. The frosty relationship between Mwendwa and Kenyatta emanated from suspicion after the former hosted Ugandan President Milton Obote, who had been overthrown by Idi Amin Dada. Kenyatta thought that the Kenyan military could be ‘motivated’ by what had happened in Uganda.

And the powers that be also implicated Mwendwa in the 1971 abortive coup which prompted him to resign. Mwendwa then ventured into business and acquired prime land and thousands of acres of agricultural land.

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What he owned and meeting his death without a will

He was a filthy rich man who owned 43000 acres of land in Laikipia. The ranch had an artificial insemination investment. He also had shares in Chania Enterprises Limited which owned 1000 acres of land in Thika, 400 of which were under coffee plantation.

According to information retrieved from Standard Digital, Mwendwa had also acquired 400 acres of land in Shimoni, Kwale County and had commercial property along Ngong Road, Nairobi.

However, despite being an acclaimed lawyer, he met his death before drafting a will. He died in a nasty road accident along Nairobi – Thika Highway in 1985. Family members cast doubts on his death, necessitating a public inquest which ruled out a possibility of an assassination. Despite his wife, Nyiva Mwendwa following up on investigating the death privately, her efforts hit headwinds when the lead investigator also died in a road accident.

Tussle for the control of Mwendwa’s Estate

Nyiva Mwendwa, the wife of the deceased was offered the letter of administration of the family’s property in June, 1986. Barely six months later, she was offered the certificate of confirmation of grant  by the court.

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Nyiva has been described as a trailblazer who was a former MP and the first Kitui County Woman Representative before she retired from politics in 2017. She made history by being the first woman to be nominated a cabinet minister in 1995.

Nyiva Mwendwa is accused of sidelining her daughter in inheritance of the family’s property. [Photo|Courtesy]

The mother of 2 has however been sued by her daughter, Kavinya Mwendwa who has decried being sidelined in the management of the family’s property. In court papers, Kavinya accuses her mother and brother Maluki Mwendwa of giving her a raw deal and even selling off some of the property without her consent.

Kavinya (56) says that in as much as she gave green light to the mother being the administrator of the properties, she was surprised that her younger brother Maluki Mwendwa was sneaked into the role of administration without her knowledge.

Her consent dated April, 1986 reads: “I, Mutheu Kavinya Mwendwa, being the daughter of the above named deceased, do hereby consent to letters of administration being granted to my mother, Winfred Nyiva Mwendwa.”

Furthermore, in an ugly feud that now threatens to shred the family ties, Kavinya claims that her father’s property was underestimated and some of his assets left out. Among the resources she says were left out include the father’s cars, the massive 43000 acres Muigie farm, Maki Apartments (Ngong Road) and other properties in Kitui County.

“In giving that value, the 1st respondent (Nyiva) left out a sizeable portion of the estate of the deceased,” Kavinya claims.

The family’s daughter also alleged that three properties in Nairobi, Kwale and Mombasa have since been sold without her consent. Additionally, she said that her efforts to have access to the grant have been shrugged off by the mother.

All along, my request to her has been for her to share information with me on the succession including giving me a copy of the grant. She has refused to share any information with me completely,” alleges Kavinya.

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