Bury or cremate? Kin of sports official feud

The late Joshua Okuthe. His cremation slated for today (Friday) was stopped after his sister Deborah Odhiambo and another wife Ms. Zawadi Hadija Issa, moved to court. Zawadi Hadija Issa is accusing the first wife, Ruth Okuthe, of excluding her from the burial arrangements. The case will be heard on July 22. Photo/PAUL WAWERU.

A burial dispute reminiscent of the 1980’s court drama between the Umira Kager clan and Wambui Otieno is in the offing.

Although the dispute involves a son of the same clan, the reason for the fight is different – whether Mr Joshua Hardy Okuthe should be cremated.

Mr Okuthe, 62, the chairman of the Kenya National Sports Council, died on July 5. His wife, Ruth Florence Okuthe, had planned to cremate him on Friday.

Her plans were, however, cut short after Mr Okuthe’s sister Deborah Odhiambo and another wife Zawadi Hadija Issa, moved to court and successfully stopped the cremation plans.

Mr Justice Hatari Waweru had issued orders sought by Ms Odhiambo and before the ink on the paper dried, Ms Issa was in the same courtroom seeking similar orders.

Resolve amicably

And for purposes of disposing of the matter quickly, Mr Justice Waweru consolidated both matters and ordered the parties to appear before him on July 22.

In her suit papers Ms Odhiambo says that efforts to resolve the matter amicably have failed.

And if not stopped, said Ms Odhiambo through lawyer Kioko Kilukumi, the suit would be rendered worthless since he would have been cremated.

She says the family met on Tuesday where Mrs Okuthe dropped the bombshell.

“The practice of cremating dead bodies is completely unknown and alien to the Luo customs,” said Ms Odhiambo.

Ms Issa on her part accuses the first wife of excluding her from the burial arrangements.

She claims to have had three children with Mr Okuthe, but one died at infancy.

In her suit papers, Ms Issa says that it was her husband’s wish for him to be buried next to their daughter in their farm in Muhoroni.

Ms Odhiambo who told the court that Mr Okuthe had, a week prior to his death, expressed his plans to be buried at his Muhoroni farm.

Mr Justice Waweru directed Ms Odhiambo and Ms Issa to foot the mortuary fees, from today until the case is concluded.

Mr Okuthe died on Sunday after watching a sports game. He was with Athletics Kenya secretary general David Okeyo, at the latter’s house in Nairobi West.

He was a professional long jump athlete and also competed in hurdles and sprint events.

He joined the Nation Media Group as a senior sports writer in 1972 with a bias in reporting athletics and football.

Some prominent Kenyans who have been cremated are Archbishop Manases Kuria and former Labour minister Peter Okondo.