Kenya: Widow Fights Church Elder Over Prime Property

The marriage collapsed after 12 years, the man died four years later and the widow has only just discovered that their five prime plots were transferred to a church elder.

Did Dishon Chege Kariuki, who died in 2014, willfully transfer the properties to his friend, Cyrus Ndung’u, who was beside him throughout his illness?

Could it be that Mr Ndung’u, as Ms Regina Wangari Githuo alleges, took advantage of his friend who was unwell to seize the properties in Ruai, Nairobi? Or perhaps Ms Wangari is just bitter that her estranged husband married another woman, Ms Elizabeth Wamuyu, who ended up with the wealth she believes they amassed during their marriage?

It is a story of love, betrayal, shattered dreams, devotion to church and accusations of religious brainwashing.

Dishon and Regina started off a lovely couple. They wedded on August 8, 1998, under the pious gaze of the Reverend Samuel Njagi, who would later be drawn into their conflict. Mr Kariuki was 31 and Ms Wangari, 24, when they wedded at the Kenya Assemblies of God Church at Uthiru in Kiambu County.

They were blessed with their first born son, Elian Kariuki in 2000 and their daughter, Favour Wanjiru, was born in 2005.

The year they wedded, Mr Kariuki bought two plots measuring 40 feet by 80 feet in Ruai from Mwanzo Development Company registered as LR Lukenya/498/plot numbers 328 and 226. The young couple was keen on expanding their investment and when in December 2006 the man had a windfall of Sh100,000, his wife urged him to buy another plot in Ruai.

Within a few days, they secured another plot from Bigma Housing Company, which was registered as LR/Donyo Sabuku/Komarock/Block 1/613 plot number 375. It cost them Sh60,000. For the same price apiece, they added two more plots — numbers 388 and 395 in December 2007 and 2008, respectively.

According to Ms Wangari, they had agreed that these would be their children’s inheritance.

Quick to escape the life of monthly rent, the couple built a two-roomed house on plot 375 in 2007, where they lived.

Keen for them to have some rental income, Ms Wangari, who operated a grocery, said she bought a few bags of cement, which she would leave at the door to their house to nudge her husband into taking on the project.

“I wanted him to see that I was very serious about the development of the plot. So I saved as much as I could and bought a few bags of cement. When he saw my commitment, he obliged and quickly, we built four other rooms that we rented out,” she recounted.

The other plots were left undeveloped but they hoped to develop them when they had money.

Fought about money

Despite the developments, all was not well with their marriage. They were fighting over finances.

According to Ms Wangari, her husband had met a “prophet” who told him that his money was neither for his personal use nor his immediate family’s. That he should send it to his relatives back in Nyandarua. She complained her husband wired a lot of his money to his relatives.

The differences strained their relationship and in late 2010, the couple split.

“I left the house in Ruai on December 15, 2010. Shortly after my departure, in January 2011, Dishon remarried. I expected the church pastor, Samwuel Njagi, to intervene, but it never happened. I stopped going to the church, I felt a lot of pain,” the widow said.

Rev Njagi, however, told the Nation that his advice to Mr Kariuki not to remarry fell on deaf ears. In 2012, Mr Kariuki filed for divorce. The case had not been concluded by the time he died in 2014.

From 2012, his health worsened and a brain scan revealed a grim finding: he suffered a condition that killed a third of patients. The CT scan conducted by Plaza MRI on July 28, 2012, showed he had a sub-acute infarct in the left high parietal parafalcine — one of the four major lobes in the brain.

This meant that some arteries in this area were either blocked or narrowed, limiting oxygen supply to the brain. The blockage or narrowing is often caused either by blood clots, attached masses that travel through the bloodstreams or an abnormal accumulation of material in the inner layer of the artery wall.

“The procedure and findings of the scan shows there is a focal area of signal change in the left frontoparietal paracental lobule that measures 53x27mm. The conclusion is that the scan shows a picture of bland subacute left frontoparietal infarct,” Dr A Odhiambo, a radiologist, signed the results.

Not recognised

Mr Kariuki died on December 28, 2014. During the burial a few weeks later, Ms Wangari was not recognised as his spouse. Only Ms Wamuyu, who lives in Joska, where Ms Wangari says her late husband bought her a plot and built her a home and rentals, was recognised.

“I was there during Regina’s and Dishon’s wedding and saw everything. They wedded in my church in 1998. When Dishon filed for divorce, I strongly condemned the issue because it is against our church constitution. He (Dishon) was adamant and went on with the come-we-stay arrangement with his new wife (Elizabeth). We did not recognise that marriage,” the Rev Njagi told the Nation.

However, he acknowledged both women attended the burial.

In his complaints before the Principal Magistrate’s court in Kikuyu on February 20, 2013, Mr Kariuki had accused his wife of neglecting the children and frustrating him, leading to his terminal illness.

Marriage certificate

His grievances drove a wedge between his wife and her in-laws.

“The mental anguish and frustration and stress brought about by the actions of the defendant (Regina Wangari Githuo) have resulted in me being terminally ill. The defendant, when she was moving out of the matrimonial home took with her all the documents, including a copy of our marriage certificate,” Mr Kariuki told the court, court papers show.

Ms Wangari did not dispute that she had the marriage certificate, which she said she took for her own security as she would need it in future to claim her property as well as her children’s.

Upon realising that his wife had left with the marriage certificate, Mr Kariuki said he applied for a copy from the Registrar of Marriages, only to be told that the marriage was not registered.

“I was surprised by the findings by the officials at the registrar of marriages that my marriage was not registered because the pastor who officiated over my marriage ceremony did not send a copy of my marriage certificate to the registrar of marriage to effect the marriage,” Mr Kariuki further told the court.

However, Ms Wangari showed the Nation the marriage certificate issued by the State — registration number 151079, GPK 5171-500Bs_2/96.

It states that the marriage was solemnised at the Kenya Assemblies of God, Uthiru in Nairobi and was officiated by Reverend S M Tinega in the presence of the church pastor, Samuel Njagi.

Following the death of her husband, Ms Wangari sought to trace all the properties they had bought while they were living together.

This was hastened by reports she said she got from her former church colleagues that their plots of land in Ruai had been taken over by a church leader, Mr Ndung’u, and Pastor Benard Mwangi.

“There was so much talk that our plots had been sold. So I went to Bigma Housing Company where we bought plots 375, 388 and 395 in 2015. They did a search and they confirmed to me that the land ownership had been transferred to Cyrus Ndung’u and Benard Mwangi,” said Ms Wangari.

Contacted by the Nation, Mr Ndung’u admitted the plots were now registered in his name. In his account, it is the late Kariuki who authorised the transfer and asked him to hold the property in trust for his children.

“Dishon transferred the three plots he bought in Bigma Housing Company to me in 2013. We did so in the presence of his lawyer. I could not have transferred the property of a dead person to myself,” Mr Ndung’u explained.

He also added Ms Wangari was not known to him as he had met Mr Kariuki in 2011 with his then wife, Elizabeth.

“Dishon told me that he feared his wife would sell off the properties instead of giving it to the kids. He was my best friend and confidante and thus entrusted me with the task of safeguarding his property for his children,” said Mr Ndung’u.

Ms Wangari rushed to the office of the chief in Komarock location and sought his assistance to prove that her husband left her as the sole beneficiary of the plots.

The chief, Thomas Mutua, said he knew the properties left by Mr Kariuki belonged to Ms Wangari and wrote a letter dated September 29, 2016, stating this.

“Mr Kariuki hailed from this location (Komarock), Koma Sub-location prior to his death, which occurred on December 28, 2014. He left Regina Wangari Githuo, ID number 21720350 as the only beneficiary of his plots in the following companies,” the chief wrote.

“Mwanzo Development Company-LR Lukenya/498 plots number 328 and 226. Bigma Housing Company LR.Donyo Sabuk/Komarock block 1/613 plot numbers-375,388 and 395. Please accord her the necessary assistance so as to be able to transfer the plots to her,” Chief Mutua concluded.

Armed with this information, she called Mr Ndung’u and demanded that she be shown the title deeds that her husband allegedly passed over to him and certifications to prove it.

Had Mr Ndung’u shown her the documents to prove that her late husband had approved the transfer of ownership, Ms Wangari claimed that she would have abandoned the matter and moved on. She claimed that he had no such documents.

Formed a bond

Instead, Mr Ndung’u threatened her, she claimed. He allegedly sent one of Mr Kariuki’s brothers to tell her that she should never call him. The last time she talked to Mr Ndung’u on phone was in September this year.

“During his illness, Dishon formed a bond with Cyrus Ndung’u and Pastor Bernard Mwangi. In fact, Cyrus used to take him to hospital in his car. I suspect they took advantage of Dishon’s mental illness and duped him,” she claimed.

Ms Wangari then marched to the church shortly after places of worship re-opened in September following the long Covid-19 closure.

The meeting did not go as she had envisioned, though, she talked with the Rev Njagi. To settle the matter, the pastor summoned Mr Ndung’u to his office so that he could clear the air on the matter.

“It is true that I met Ms Regina in September and I left her with Mr Ndung’u to talk it out in my office. What I know is that she came to demand the title deeds of the plots her husband left to her children, not the other plots that she claims. The plots for the children are intact and we are just waiting for the daughter (Favour) to turn 18 and hand them over to them,” the Rev Njagi told the Nation.