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Widows tussle over burial of city tycoon

Awoman has been left devastated after her co-wife buried their millionaire husband without her knowledge.

Mother-of-two Agnes Kanana accused her co-wife Esther Njeri of locking her family out of the funeral arrangements of their late husband, Joseph Kahonge, and burying him secretly at Lang’ata Cemetery.

“We were all shocked to hear that he had been buried when we had not even seen his body. We all expected the burial on the following day,” said a weeping Ms Kanana yesterday.

Not even the late Kahonge’s brothers and other close relatives and friends were involved in the funeral arrangements or the burial. But responding to the allegations, the late Kahonge’s first born son, Mwaura Kahonge termed Ms Kanana a “fraudster.” You look at the two obituaries, the one on page 46 and the other on page 45 and you compare and conclude who is a fraudster.” He stated. “Mpango wa Kando sio mke na sheria iko (a mistress is not a wife and the law is clear),” he added.

They challenged Ms Kanana to go to court if she had a genuine case. “If she has any issues with the family, let her go to court.”

His brother Patrick Kahonge said the immediate family had acted according to their late father’s wishes. “The family position is that we have no comment on Ms Kanana’s allegations because they remain just that; allegations. Whatever we did was in accordance with the wishes of our late father,” he stated.

Ms Kanana relatives, however, dismissed the fraudster claim, saying she was married to Kahonge under Kikuyu Customary laws.

The late joseph Kahonge's niece Monicah Mwichigi. Photo/Jeff Angote
The late joseph Kahonge’s niece Monicah Mwichigi. Photo/Jeff Angote

According to one of Mr Kahonge’s brothers, Lucas Mwicigi, the extended family only learnt that their relative had been buried through one of their sisters who lives with the first wife in Karen.

“When we got to Lang’ata on Tuesday, we just found the security guard and a fresh grave with his epitaph. No one has seen his body and we are not even sure if it’s him buried there. We heard that there was no viewing of the body,” said Mr Mwicigi.

Family divisions

Deep-rooted divisions in the family came to the fore on Monday when his two widows separately placed obituaries in the Daily Nation announcing Joseph Kahonge’s death and funeral arrangements.

An obituary placed by the first widow, Esther, indicated that the former Chief Valuer at the defunct City Council of Nairobi would be buried at Lang’ata Cemetery on Wednesday after a funeral service at the Evangelist Catholic church in Karen. Ms Kanana and her two children were not listed as part of the deceased’s family.

The other obituary placed by Ms Kanana indicated that friends and relatives were meeting daily at Utalii Hotel to plan funeral arrangements which would be communicated later.

This too had no mention of Ms Kanana’s co-wife or her children.

Ms Kanana had been living with her late husband at their Balozi estate residence for the last 14 years, until he was diagnosed with lung cancer mid last year.

He was admitted to the Nairobi hospital a few weeks later.

Ms Kanana said trouble started when her co-wife hired private security guards to watch over their ailing husband in hospital with instructions not to allow her and Mr Kahonge’s siblings to visit him. Upon being discharged from the hospital, Mr Kahonge was taken to the first wife’s house in Karen and not to Ms Kanana’s home.

“I talked to him on the phone and wanted to go for him, bring him home, but he told me it might be dangerous.

“He said that once he got a little stronger, he would come home,” Ms Kanana said.

That was never to be as he was soon flown to India for further treatment, where he died.

According to Mr Kahonge’s niece, Jennifer Wangari, Ms Kanana and the extended family were told the deceased’s body would arrive at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 3pm on Tuesday February 11 but they later learnt that it had arrived at 9am and taken to the Lee Funeral Home.

“On Sunday, we went to Lee Funeral but we were told the body had been moved to Nairobi Women’s Hospital. When we went to Nairobi Women’s Hospital, we were told that the body was not there. It was only after he was buried that we learnt he had been taken to Montezuma instead,” she explained.

Court injunction

Ms Kanana planned to go to court on Tuesday to obtain an injunction blocking the burial, but called off her action when she learnt he was buried earlier in the day.

Mr Mwicigi said: “We wanted a decent funeral for him. He had been scheduled to be buried as a proper Catholic with a requiem mass. Why did they have to change that? It is disrespectful to the man that there even were no flowers.

Although Mr Kahonge’s estate was said to be worth hundreds of millions of shillings, Ms Kanana and Mr Mwicigi said the family was not interested in his money.

He left no will.