Feuding families present two death certificates in Sh100m prime property dispute

The High Court in Eldoret.

The High Court in Eldoret.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

A battle over ownership of a 30-acre piece of land valued at more than Sh100 million has taken a dramatic turn after parties involved presented in court two conflicting death certificates, with variation in names and extreme differences in the year of death of the alleged ‘original’ owner of the land.

The family of Philip Cherono claim to be genuine owners of the prime agricultural land located in Kaptagat settlement scheme in Uasin Gishu by presenting in court a death certificate indicating that their father, who was the original owner, died in 1976. 

On the other hand, another family with a similar death certificate indicating that their deceased father was called Paulo Kibet Cherono, who died in 1997, has also laid ownership claim to the same land. 

The family that claims their father died in 1997 is the family of a judiciary officer, Abraham Chebii, who is the main petitioner. 

The other family is alleging that Mr Chebii is using his position as a judicial officer to intimidate them.

However, Mr Chebii, a senior driver employed by Judicial Service Commission has refuted their claims, insisting that he is following due process of the law to acquire what is rightfully his. 

“By any chance I am not abusing my position as an employee of the judiciary. Just like any other Kenyan I went to court to seek justice and those who claim to own the land in dispute should allow due process of the court to be followed,” said Mr Chebii.

According to testimony presented in court, the family of Paul Philip Cherono insists that Mr Chebii has no documentary evidence to claim ownership of the property. They called upon the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to investigate legality of the death certificate in Mr Chebii’s possession. 

Ironically, employment documents presented in court in respect to Mr Chebii indicate that his father is called Musa Chebii Chirchir.

“As per the employment form filled by JSC Human Resource Director, the father of Chebii Kiptoo Abraham is shown as Musa Chebii Chirchir. The form is duly filled and signed by the employee in question,” assistant director of human resource director at Judiciary, Stephen Nzioka, had told the court during proceedings of the case on March 22, 2021. 

However, Mr Chebii insisted that Musa Chebii Chirchir was his stepfather. 

“It is very wrong for Chebii to abuse his position at the Judiciary to frustrate justice through interference of the court process related to the land matter in his attempt to disinherit our family,” said Mr Daniel Chesire, one the family members affected in the matter. 

Mr Chesire said they have spent a lot of money to seek justice for the property, noting that due to interference by the judiciary officer, it has become difficult for his family to get justice. 

“We are appealing to Chief Justice Martha Koome to prevail upon her junior officer who is abusing his position to intimidate and threaten us. He has even been coming to the disputed land with a judiciary vehicle to threaten us,” added Mr Chesire.

The same sentiments were echoed by Kileti Cheruiyot, Philip Cherono’s older son, who said they have the original title deed to the land and challenged Mr Chebii to produce a title deed if indeed he is the rightful owner of the property. 

“Our late father acquired the property situated in Kaptagat settlement scheme in 1965, which was registered as plot no 173 under the name of Paul Philip Cherono. We have been living here since our childhood. Our parents died here and their graves are here,” he said. 

Mr Cheruiyot said no amount of threats and intimidation will silence them and they will keep fighting for their late father’s estate. 

The wrangling families have been in court for more than 10 years. 

Mr Cheruiyot said the row over ownership of the parcel of land between the judiciary officer and their family emerged in 2013.

Mr Cheruiyot alleged that Mr Chebii officer has been sending several warnings to them to vacate the land which he purports belongs to him through his late father. 

“We were surprised when the Judiciary officer came to our home over ten years ago and declared that we are strangers in the parcel of land that we have called home since we were born over 50 years ago,” said Mr Cheruiyot. 

His sister Mary Cheruiyot said she was shocked to discover that Mr Chebii was claiming ownership of their family land. 

“How can he claim ownership of the family agricultural land in Uasin Gishu County where our parents are buried and yet he hails from the neighbouring Elgeyo Marakwet County?” she asked. 

“We have been forced to lease 90 per cent of our land to outsiders in order to raise money towards land case matters in Eldoret High Court and the law courts in Iten town, something which has subjected us as a family to poverty,” Ms Cheruiyot added.

Mr Chebii dismissed claims by the family of Paul Philip Cherono. 

“My advice to the objectors is to let the court process take its course,” Mr Chebii stated. 

He initiated the succession process in 2013 before meeting strong resistance from Mr Cherono’s family. 

Hearing of the objection, which is before the High Court in Eldoret, is slated for October 19.