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Uhuru in-law, step-mother renew properties fight

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Uhuru in-law, step-mother renew properties fight


Uhuru

Margaret Gecaga. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • President Uhuru Kenyatta’s brother-in-law Udi Gecaga is locked in a new court battle over the ownership of eight properties in Nairobi’s Muthaiga with his stepmother.
  • The Court of Appeal has allowed Margaret Gacigi Gecaga to challenge the arbitration ruling that gave Udi the right over the properties in the high-end estates.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s brother-in-law Udi Gecaga is locked in a new court battle over the ownership of eight properties in Nairobi’s Muthaiga with his stepmother, who faced eviction from one of the homes.

The Court of Appeal has allowed Margaret Gacigi Gecaga to challenge the arbitration ruling that gave Udi the right over the properties in the high-end estates acquired by his late father, Bethuel Gecaga.

The High Court declined to set aside the arbitration ruling that gave Udi the right to evict his stepmother from the Muthaiga home she shared with Bethuel for nearly 10 years till his death in 2016.

He also demanded rent of more than Sh9 million accrued from the time his father died in December 2016.

Justice Roselyn Nambuye said although Margaret was late in filing the appeal, the failure to beat the 14-day period for filing appeals was not her making.

“In light of the above case law, it is my finding that the delay involved herein is not so inordinate so as to disentitle the applicant to the relief sought,” the Judge said.

Margaret explained that although the High Court decision was delivered in July 2020, it was not until August 26 when she accessed the ruling and by then, the time for filing the appeal had lapsed.

She told the judge that High Court judge Grace Nzioka did not read the entire arbitration ruling but portions of the decision.

“I find no exceptional circumstances herein to warrant withholding the exercise of the applicant’s intended appellate right,” Justice Nambuye said.

This offers Margaret the window to contest at the Court of Appeal the transfer of the eight properties– including the Muthaiga home to Udi — that she claims are matrimonial property.

She also argued that her husband was not in a position to execute the disputed transfers, alleging fraud and forgery in the handover of the assets.

Margaret also doubted the validity of transfers and whether they were prepared by an independent and competent advocate.

It was her argument that if the final award is allowed to stand, it would lead to not only anarchy in marriages but panic and fear to widows who are left vulnerable and unable to protect matrimonial property.

In the High Court ruling, Justice Nzioka upheld a decision of a Tribunal on the transfer of the properties, saying there was no evidence that the award was contrary to public policy.

“On the second issue of whether Muthaiga properties were to be considered to be matrimonial property, the Tribunal made its findings. In particular, the tribunal found at paragraph 169 that the properties were purchased in the 1960s and 1970s when the deceased was married to his late wife,” the judge said.

Justice Nzioka agreed with the tribunal that for one to claim a beneficial interest in matrimonial property, a spouse must have proved contribution towards the acquisition and improvement of the property.

But in Margaret’s case, the judge said, she did not adduce any evidence to prove that the properties were jointly owned or that it was acquired during the subsistence of the marriage.

“Having analysed the findings of the tribunal on the subject issue, I did not find any evidence that it violates or is contrary to public policy,” the judge said.

The Gecagas’ property battle was triggered by a 2007 decision to transfer Bethuel’s property to Quinvest and the appointment of Udi to shepherd the firm.

Udi married President Kenyatta’s elder sister, Jeni Wambui.

Udi’s son Jomo works at State House as the President’s long-serving personal assistant while his daughter, Nana, serves as chief executive of the iconic Kenyatta International Convention Centre, a State corporation.

The assets transfer was linked to Bethuel’s estate planning, but Margaret termed it a fraud and an effort to exclude her from the multi-billion shilling property.

She argued that her husband did not permit the property transfers because he was suffering memory loss from years of Alzheimer’s disease affliction.

Bethuel married Margaret in August 2007, having lived as a widower since 1979 when his first wife, former nominated MP Jemima Gecaga, died.

At the time of the marriage, Bethuel was 82 years old, while Margaret, who told the court she had been his live-in partner for many years before ratification of the relationship, was 69.

The judge noted that Margaret admitted that she was living with Bethuel as his wife since 1993 but separated.

They reunited in 2007.



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