Visit to family by groom does not make a Kikuyu customary marriage, court rules
A Kikuyu customary marriage cannot be negotiated and conducted by a groom and his friends alone, a court has ruled.
Nakuru High Court judge Joel Ngugi made a finding that a visit by the groom and his friend(s) to the bride’s family cannot be considered part of the Kikuyu customary marriage proceedings.
According to Justice Ngugi, even though customary law is dynamic, there are certain formalities that must be undertaken to qualify a Kikuyu customary marriage.
While drawing evidence from court precedence, Justice Ngugi highlighted some of the key requirements of a Kikuyu customary marriage to include the capacity of the parties to conduct marriage, consent from both families of the couple and a ceremonial slaughtering of a ram.
Bride price must also be paid in full or in part before cohabitation.
The judge made the finding while determining a case in which two Nakuru women, Muthoni and Nyambura (not their real names) were battling for the inheritance of a deceased man’s estate.
Muthoni, who filed the case in 2010 petitioning for letters of administration, claimed to be the first among the two widows of the deceased.
She claimed to have been married to the deceased in 1983 through a Kikuyu customary marriage and had five children before separating after five years of living together.
However, the court heard that the deceased visited Muthoni’s grandparents, but did not pay bride price.
Muthoni told the court that her marriage with the deceased was on and off but he was the one taking care of their children.
On the other hand, Nyambura, a retired high school teacher, objected to the petition through a cross petition in which she denied knowing Muthoni as her co-wife.
She claimed to be the only wife of the deceased, whom she married to in 1986 in a Christian marriage that was solemnised in 1991.
The court heard that a bride price of Sh20,000 was paid to Nyambura’s parents, and the couple had three children.
According to Nyambura, they initially lived at her husband’s home in Molo, before they acquired a plot in Elburgon. Later, they bought two other plots in the same area.
She produced her pay slip to show how she contributed towards the purchase of the property.
Justice Ngugi, while making determination to the decade-long court battle, declared that the relationship between Muthoni and the deceased could not be considered a marriage either through customary laws or by presumption.
“Whatever happened in this case cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, amount to a Kikuyu customary marriage,” ruled justice Ngugi.
However, the judge recognised as beneficiaries three of Muthoni’s children, whose birth documents she presented to the court.
He made Nyambura together with one of Muthoni’s sons the joint administrators of the deceased’s estate.