What you need to know:
- Majority of the families cannot raise money to fund the legal processes in court and this has led to unending land disputes in the county.
Poverty among families in Kilifi, and lack of information on the legal procedures has been cited as a major challenge affecting the succession process.
Majority of the families cannot raise money to fund the legal processes in court and this has led to unending land disputes in the county.
Many of the communities affected are those residing in remote areas due to challenges in accessing justice, said Mr Rashid Mbwiza, a mediator from the Organisation for Creative Leadership (OFCL) in the Coast region. He was speaking in Mstangamali village in Palakumi, Ganze Constituency, during a community sensitisation forum on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and mediation.
“It is never easy to get justice if the same justice is not accessible and also if it is not affordable. Majority of families are too poor to raise the legal fees to facilitate the succession process and sustain court procedures,” he said.
Mr Mbwiza said Kilifi and Kwale counties were hardest hit, with numerous land disputes triggered by lack of succession.
“There is still a challenge with inheritance and land ownership, majority of the community are not aware of what they are supposed to submit as proof that they own the land,” he said, adding that alternative dispute resolution will save the poor families the costs and time to follow up their cases in court.
“The community must be told the importance of inheritance to avoid wrangles among families and also be advised on different ways to solve disputes amicably,” he said.
Mr Mbwiza said the fight for wealth and inheritance has contributed to the elderly being killed on witchcraft allegations.
“The underlying issues behind all the disputes in the families that are leading to the rampant elderly killings are matters of land,” he said.
The chairman of the Bunge la Mbari la Giriama, Mzee Samuel Kazungu, said many elderly people have land, but they are not ready to subdivide among their children.
Bunge la Mbari is a group of elderly men from the 15 Giriama sub-tribes that have come together to address land disputes in families.
Mzee Kazungu said the resistance against giving children their rights has contributed to violence against the elderly, with many killed on witchcraft allegations.
“These children did not go to school and they are not employed and require money to do their stuff, because of this, they start demanding inheritance against the wish of their parents and since a father is not ready to release his property, his family will gang up against him and he will be branded a witch, killed and the land will be sold,” he said.
Mzee Peter Masha said traditionally, a man never distributed property to his children while he was still alive.
“When they die, the old men leave all their wealth under the custody of their elder son. When the son dies, the grandson is in charge of the property and this is what has led to killings of the elderly,” he said.
“Literate children will not fight for inheritance, but those who have not gone to school will always think of killing to acquire wealth,” he said.
Men most affected
The most affected are men in polygamous families, he added.
Majority of the young men want to be given land to sell so they can buy a motorcycle and join the boda boda business.
“These young men will see their age mates who have taken motorcycles on credit operating and getting money and they want to be like them and start demanding they be given their share of inheritance,” he said.
“These allegations have instilled fear among the elderly and many have been living in the forests for fear of being killed by their sons,” said Mzee Masha.
The killings have affected education in the area since teachers are scared and do not want to be deployed to the area.
“No teacher wanted to teach in our schools since they felt that the area was not safe for them due to the many wrangles that led to killings, “he added.
However, he said that the community has a big responsibility to end family disputes.
A father should divide his wealth before his children start demanding it.
“No outsider will bear the burden to find a solution to our problems, but we have to address issues that will lead to family disputes,” he said.
Mrs Alice Karisa said men have contributed to family wrangles and the majority are being killed by their wives and children. In many cases, men have made their wives look vulnerable in the presence of their children, who in turn plan revenge.
“When your husband does not want to give you an ear when there is an issue to be addressed like inheritance, your children will be there for you. His resistance and rebellion to all matters leads to hatred,” she said.
Incitement by women
In some cases, women incite children against their fathers.
“When a mother and her children plan for revenge, they will start to claim that he is a witch and spread the information in the village,” she said.
Mrs Fatuma Karisa said sometimes men are not fair during the sharing of property and this triggers conflicts among children.
“When children feel that their father is biased when dividing the wealth, they will gang up to kill him so that they can all get an equal share of the wealth,” she said.
Mr Justine Marahu blamed the government for the increased killings related to land.
“The government has not been serious when it comes to addressing the killings that have been caused by conflicts among family members. They do not secure the scenes of crime like they used to do in the past, and getting key witnesses,” he said.
And because the government has failed to protect witnesses, a majority are not willing to give evidence in court for fear of being killed by the perpetrators.
“The killers are always people known to us but we cannot be witnesses against them because once they have served their jail terms and they are back in the community, all those who testified against them become the enemy and the criminals plan to kill them,” he added.
Palakumi location is infamous for the killer gang that was known as Palakumi Funga File, a criminal gang that comprised youth who were hired to kill the elderly and other targeted community members.
The name “funga file” (close the file) derives from their swiftness in killing, since none of their targets survived after being attacked.