The body of a man that has been lying in a Kisumu mortuary for eight years has finally been laid to rest at his disputed ancestral land, after a court ruled in his family’s favour.
Barack Ogada Ouko, a tea picker in Nandi County, died in 2014. After all the burial plans were set and the family ready to bury him at their Tiengre home in Kisumu County, an ‘alleged owner’ of the land appeared.
Longstanding court battle
James Onunga, backed by police, stormed the burial ceremony as he claimed ownership of the land. The family was forced to return their kin’s body to the morgue. This was the start of a series of court cases.
In the dispute that would take years, Onunga reportedly sued the deceased’s widow Jessica Ogada, along with other relatives including Oliech Ogola, Thomas Ago and Jagero Ogalo.
In his court plea, he wanted to obtain a permanent injunction to prevent the family from burying their kin on ‘his’ land.
He claimed that he purchased the piece of land from Francis Agoo, grandfather to the deceased, in 1986. Onunga added that he paid KSh8,000 for the land, and later became the registered owner after obtaining the title deed.
After a three-year court battle, the deceased’s family got reprieve after the court allowed them to bury their kin on the contentious piece of land in 2017.
Ouko would not rest with the angels as is believed. After two months, Onunga returned in the company of police officers, a court order, similar claims- that he was the sole owner of the land.
The officers exhumed the body which caused havoc in the area. The officers battled locals who were opposed to the exhumation, resulting in teargas lobbying.
After they were done, rowdy youths reportedly demolished some of the houses. Some demolished houses were an attraction along the Kisumu-Busia highway. His widow spent a month at Kodiaga Prison following the chaos.
During one court proceeding in 2019, before Senior Principal Winfred Onkunya, Ouko’s widow admitted that she found out the land was transferred when the matter was brought to court.
However, she pleaded with the judge to allow the family bury their kin, saying that they had lived with her husband’s family’s land until 1983, when they moved to Nandi.
“An order is hereby issued directing the land register to cancel the title deed in respect of L.R. NO Kisumu/Korando/822 registered on the names of the plaintiff James Onunga and instead register the title in the name of Francis Ago (deceased)”, the June 9 ruling read.
Effectively, the family interred Ouko on Sunday. Aside from emotional trauma and prolonged mourning, Ouko’s family was left with a KSh800,000 mortuary bill to clear.
According to their account, they will task the complainant Onunga to cater for the bills and construction of houses demolished during the chaotic exhumation of Ouko’s body.