Two families, two burial sites, one body, five months on

Judy Adhiambo

Judy Adhiambo who died in Saudi Arabia five months ago. 

Photo credit: Courtesy

A row has erupted between two families in Nakuru East, over where to bury their relative who died in Saudi Arabia five months ago.

Judy Adhiambo’s husband George Otieno Odhiambo claims that he should be allowed to bury his wife as per Luo customs, while his in-laws argue that he has not paid bride price, and cannot, therefore, bury her.

Mr Otieno’s in-laws, led by his mother-in law, now want to be given the body of the deceased to bury.

Adhiambo died under unclear circumstances on November 22, in Saudi Arabia, where she was a domestic worker. Her body was brought to the country last week for burial, which has now been derailed by the wrangles.

The controversy over where Adhiambo should be buried arose immediately after the body was brought back into the country and moved to the PNN funeral home in Nakuru County.

Mr Otieno, 51, demanded to bury Adhiambo at his ancestral home in Migori County, saying they had been married for 26 years and were blessed with four children.

He said that after receiving the news of his wife’s death through his friend, he started making burial arrangements that have lasted three months.

Mr Otieno said it took the intervention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help in bringing back the body.

“When we finally managed to bring the body into the country, l moved it to the PNN Funeral Home and it was registered under my name,” Mr Otieno told the Nation.

Sidelining him

Then his in-laws started sidelining him, he said, claiming that he had insulted and chased them away from his rental house in Kimathi, Nakuru, where he was living with his wife before she left for Saudi Arabia.

Judy Adhiambo

Ms Peris Aloo Ambok- mother to Judy Adhiambo who died in Saudi Arabia five months ago at her Kivumbini home in Nakuru City.

Photo credit: Mercy Koskei I Nation Media Group

According to Mr Otieno, he had fulfilled all the Luo customs pertaining to marriage, including paying bride price.

“The body arrived last week but it was in a bad state, I and my children are glad that we will give her a good sendoff. As a Luo man, I had done all that pertains to marriage, they should allow me to bury her in our ancestral land in Nyabiswa, Migori County,” he said.

“My wife’s sisters came here … We had already made plans of ferrying the body on Thursday to Migori for burial on Friday, but they have made it difficult. They should just let me bury my wife,” said Mr Otieno.

Now the burial arrangements have been halted, he said, and he is waiting for his in-laws to release the body.

According to Mr Otieno, the last time he spoke with his wife, she told him that her employer was mistreating her and she had decided to come back home after being in the foreign country for only five months. She then told him she had booked a flight back home.

However, two days later, her photos started circulating online, with information that she was found dead in a bathroom.

"When she was leaving for Saudi Arabia, she never informed me. I just came back from work and did not find her at home. She called and told me that she was in Nairobi for some training and three days later, she told me she had left the country. Before going to Saudi Arabia she was selling fruits," recalled Mr Otieno.

Two kilometres from his home, in Kivumbini estate, we found Adhiambo’s family busy with burial preparations.

Her mother, Ms Peris Aloo Ombok, said her family will bury Adhiambo because the couple had separated even before she left for Saudi Arabia.

She claimed Mr Otieno had disrespected her family, and had not paid bride price for Adhiambo.

Ms Aloo said her daughter decided to move to Saudi Arabia in search of greener pastures, in order to take her second-born son to university.

"He claims to be my son-in-law yet he never even attended her father's burial. As a mother, l have decided to bury my daughter without including him. He has also not paid any bride price, giving me the rights to bury her," she maintained. 

Adhiambo's elder brother John Ombok said the family would bury his sister on the family land in Gem, Siaya county.