John Godhard Mburu, a former Western provincial commissioner, got back into the news this week some 33 years after he died in Nairobi.
This week, one of his widows, Carmelina, emerged to join the Karen land saga in which two parties have laid claim to the 134-acre multi-million shilling property.
In the court papers, Carmelina claims that the land belonged to her husband and at no time did he transfer it to Muchanga Investment Limited of Francis Da Gama Rose, bringing a new twist to the case.
She says that the land was irregularly transferred to third parties without the knowledge of Mr or Ms Mburu.
When this case opens fully, it will be the second high profile case involving the Mburu family which was in the headlines in 1980s as the family tussled on where he would be buried.
Carmelina, who was Mburu’s first wife wanted Mburu to be buried in Gaichanjiru, Murang’a while co-wives—Mary Nduta and Hellen Omoka — favoured the 90-acre Mbaruk farm, near Nakuru.
During that time, two suits had been filed— one by Carmelina against Nduta and Omoka and another by Nduta against Mburu’s brother Taddeo Mwaura, a former Kandara MP, and Carmelina.
Mburu had married Carmelina in 1955 but their relationship was strained because the two did not have a child. As she was to tell the court, the relationship was further strained when the couple left the country for Oxford, where Mburu was studying, and he started a relationship with one Ms Nathalina Wakiuru.
As it later emerged, during the trial, Mburu later married Wakiuru’s younger sister, Mary Nduta as wife number two.
It was a case that exposed the Mburu family as they fought to have the final say on burial site. While Carmelina was not opposed to Mburu getting another wife, provided there was “a mutual agreement” she remained bitter with Wakiuru (Mary’s sister) because of taking off with Mburu at Oxford.
“It was very cold there and I was bitter because she used to take my husband away.”
This had strained the relationship and in 1963 they stopped living together and Mburu married Wakiuru’s sister Nduta the following year. The two had six children.
Both Nduta and Mburu lived in a house in Loresho, Nairobi while Carmelina retreated to Mombasa where she worked as a cateress at the Coast General Hospital.
While Mburu had a 23-acre farm in Murang’a, he had also bought 90 acres (with a farm house) in Mbaruk in 1965, which Nduta regarded as their matrimonial home.
No widow won
It was not until October 7, 1981, after Mburu was admitted to Kenyatta National Hospital, that the two women met for the first time.
The death of Mburu 20 days later saw Nduta start preparing for the burial and scheduled it for Mbaruk after a service at Consolata Catholic Church in Nairobi. In all these, Carmelina, who had been away for 18 years, was ignored.
In his ruling Justice J.M. Gachuhi ordered that Mburu be buried in a separate Murang’a farm the clan had identified as his lasting resting place and next to his father’s grave.
Judge Gachuhi warned the widows that none of them had won the case. He observed that there was a succession element in the dispute. In the end, it was the clan which had its way as the court was guided by the Kikuyu traditions. All the three wives attended the ceremony.
Carmelina is now back in the news as she fights once again for Mburu.