British soldier accused of marrying second wife blames Swahili language

Wedding rings

Noa Dravikula said he did not know what was happening during the Islamic ceremony because he doesn't speak Swahili.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The soldier blames the Swahili language for his problems after allegedly committing bigamy when he remarried in October 2021.
  • Dravikula married his first wife in June 2011 and they were not formally divorced when he married his Kenyan lover.

An Islamic marriage that took place two years ago has come back to haunt a British soldier stationed in Nanyuki, who's been charged with bigamy and blames the Swahili language for all his woes.

Noa Dravikula, who is a sergeant by rank, walked down the aisle in October 2021 and married Ms Kuki Wason, who is Kenyan, in an Islamic marriage ceremony known as a Nikah.

Bigamy is the offence of marrying someone who is already married to another person. It is punishable by a maximum of seven years imprisonment and/or a fine under United Kingdom (UK) law.

On February 19, 2024, the UK prosecution team told the Bulford Military Court that Mr Dravikula married his first wife in a Methodist church in Fiji in June 2011.

They have one child together and although they began divorce proceedings in March 2017, the matter was not finalised when he married Ms Wason.

Prosecutor Flight Lieutenant Charlotte Adams told the court that Sgt Dravikula said he believed the relationship between him (the sergeant) and his Kenyan lover began when he was deployed to a base in Nanyuki, Kenya.

"He was posted to the British Army Training Unit in Kenya, where he began a relationship with Kuki Wason. On October 29, 2021, a Sharia marriage ceremony called a Nikah took place - this was a legal, recognised marriage ceremony," he said.

The prosecution also said that the marriage was supervised by an official at the home of the bride's mother and that two witnesses were present.

However, the entire ceremony was conducted in Swahili, a language the accused said he did not understand.

Trouble began when the British soldier expressed his desire to take his Kenyan wife to the UK. This raised the eyebrows of his superiors, who noticed that he had not officially divorced his first wife.

When he filled in the form to bring his Kenyan mistress to the UK, Mr Dravikula said he was divorced, a claim that the prosecution sternly refuted.

For her part, back in Kenya, Ms Wason went to register her marriage to the sergeant, who was in the UK at the time. This happened in February 2022 and she was pregnant.

In order to facilitate her entry into the UK, the accused further attempted to register his next of kin as Ms Wason and referred to her as his wife, which led to his prosecution in court.

"It was then pointed out that there was no divorce from his first wife and he admitted that he was not actually divorced and wanted to bring his second wife to the UK," the prosecution told the court.

In a spirited attempt to clear himself of any wrongdoing, Mr Dravikula told the court that he had no knowledge of what was happening in Kenya because the ceremony was conducted in Swahili. As such, he did not understand what was happening.

He further claimed that he knew nothing and that any marriage performed (in Kenya) was a fraud on him.

The court also asked for an explanation of how Islamic marriages are conducted in Kenya, as in the UK such a ceremony can only be considered legally valid if it takes place in a registered place.

If it does not take place in a valid registered venue, the couples must register their marriage through a further civil ceremony.

The hearing ends on Friday, February 23, 2024.