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Wrangles delay burial of soldier killed in Westgate

A Kenya Defence Force officer who died during the September 21, 2013 Westgate attack in Nairobi is yet to be buried due to family wrangles.

The widow, Ms Christine Murugi filed a suit against James Muchoka, a cousin to the deceased, claiming he and other relatives are interfering with her right to bury her late husband.

The court has ordered that the deceased’s body should be transferred from the Kenya Defence Forces Memorial Hospital and to Kenyatta University Funeral Home pending disposal of the suit after KDF said they did not have capacity to hold bodies for long.

Colonel Dr Kennedy Ndung’u, in his court papers, said that though their memorial facility offers free services to members, it has a capacity of 12 bodies at any one time and it is intended for short term preservation prior to burial and its maximum preservation time is two weeks.

Ms Murugi, who is currently working as a nurse, said that during their courtship as well as the marriage, the deceased showed her his maternal family land in Embu as his rural home.

She stated that her husband’s maternal grandmother had given him a portion of land in Embu where they cultivated cash crops.

“Even during the holiday season and the deceased’s off duty period, we would spend time in the maternal grandmother’s home in Embu with his siblings,” Ms Murugi.

She added that the deceased recognized Embu as his home so much so that even during the traditional family introduction ceremony where the bride’s family visits the groom’s home was done, the ceremony was held at his maternal grandmother’s home in Embu.

She stated that even though the parents in-law bought a parcel of land in Tharaka, her mother-in-law has leased it for cultivation to another party and that her mother-in-law only travels to Tharaka to check on the structures she had built before relocating to Embu.

Mr Muchoka however said that the late soldier hailed from Tharaka and had in the year 2013 just before his untimely death, fenced their home in Tunyai location, Tharaka district, with a chain link fence and had even started constructing a permanent gate.

He said that the paternal family’s position is consistent with Tharaka Customary Law and burial rites to which the late governed by and subject to in his life time.

“There is no logical and practical justification for the deceased to be buried at his maternal grandmother’s land.”

The case will be mentioned on July 7, 2014.