In Kakamega, a tale of a dead body, a deadly clash and a dead brother

Selpha Maende, the first wife of Joseph Otipa Osundwa, displays a portrait photo of her late husband.

Photo credit: Shaban Makokha| Nation

A disagreement between two widows in Kakamega over where to bury the remains of their husband has further fuelled tensions between their families, resulting in deaths, injuries and destruction of property.

The burial of the late Joseph Otipa Osundwa, who died in April 2024
was scheduled for June 30 after Mumias Senior Resident Magistrate Marcella Onyango issued an order on June 24.

The body was to be collected from the mortuary at St Mary's Mission Hospital in Mumias on Friday, June 29 and taken to the first wife's home for burial on Saturday, as per the court order.

The family of the first wife, Selpha Maende, then buried Mr Otipa's body at her home in accordance with Luhya custom.

The court had also ordered that the burial costs be borne by the deceased's two wives, children and relatives, while the mortuary bills would be shared equally between the widows.

“This being a family dispute, I direct that each party bears its own costs of the mortuary expenses which should be shared equally,” directed Ms Onyango.
However, the family of the second wife, Margaret Otipa, were furious at the court's decision to grant burial rights to the first family.

They claimed that the deceased had died in their home, where he spent most of his time during his life.

"Our father has been living with our mother for years, so it was unfair for the court to give his body to our stepmother to bury, citing Luhya customs and traditions," said one of the sons.

On the day of the burial, all hell broke loose when the first family went to the burial site to bury the remains of the deceased. 

Margaret and her children interrupted the procession, sparking a violent confrontation.

The coffin containing Mr Otipa's remains was suddenly thrown to the ground as the pallbearers ran for safety.

The ensuing clash resulted in the death of 87-year-old Mohammed Anyanga, a brother of the deceased.

Mr Anyanga was attacked by one of his nephews while trying to separate the warring parties.

He was rushed to Kakamega County General Hospital where a CT scan revealed that he had suffered a fractured skull and a blood clot in his brain. He later died while undergoing treatment.

Speaking after his father's death, his son, Patrick Anyanga, said life would never be the same between the two families.

"My father was the brother of the deceased. He had every right to intervene and bring peace between the warring families. It was very wrong for a young man who knew his uncle to raise a panga and hack him to death," he lamented.

Mumias East sub-county police commander Doris Chemosi confirmed the incident and said investigations had begun.

"Detectives are already questioning and recording statements from those who attended the burial ceremony and witnessed the deadly clash. We expect to make some arrests and charge some people for the killing of the old man as soon as we complete our investigations," Ms Chemosi said.

The body of the deceased was taken to St Mary's Mission Hospital mortuary where it is expected to remain until his warring wives agree on a burial site.