The legal fight for the control of the estate of Fidel Odinga, the son of Orange Democratic Leader Raila Odinga began in the High Court in Nairobi with a consent by his mother and widow to conduct paternity tests on twins born by a different woman.
The twins, born months after Fidel’s death in January 2015, are at the centre of the property battle in which his mother Ida Odinga and sister Winnie are seeking rights of administration over his estate. The rights had been granted to his widow Lwam Getachew Bekele in January, but the Odingas claim this disadvantages the twins, among other issues.
The family has accused Ms Bekele of sidelining the twins, but the widow argues that the birth certificates attached by Mrs Odinga and her daughter do not tell who the father of the twins is. She also says the twins were born six months after the death of her husband.
At the mention of the case yesterday, lawyers Roger Sagana and Victor Olao for Ms Bekele and Mrs Odinga respectively, told Justice Aggrey Muchelule that the test would expedite and resolve the matter.
“My client is saying that she will include the twins as beneficiaries of the estate, if the test proves that they were sired by the deceased (Fidel),” Mr Sagana said.
Neither Mrs Odinga nor Ms Bekele was in court. Their lawyers complained about what they termed negative publicity generated by the media coverage of the matter.
“The media should be barred from covering this case because it is intrusive to privacy,” Mr Olao submitted.
Mr Sagana said he had no problem with the matter being covered although he supported the proposal.
The judge, however, said the matter had been brought to an open court and the only thing that would worry him, was if the names of the minors were mentioned. The judge added that the dispute revolved around paternity and not property.
The court adjourned the matter to next month after the parties signed the consent. Justice Muchelule also left it to the family to decide where to conduct the tests.
In the dispute, Mr Odinga’s two other children — Rose and Raila Junior — have signed on as sureties in the event that their mother and sister mismanage the estate.
Rose and Raila Junior are standing in for Sh30 million, which is the estimated value of Fidel’s estate after payment of liabilities.
The two have also accused Ms Bekele of withdrawing her son from formal schooling and denying them access to the child.
In reply, Ms Bekele said she has no problem including them as beneficiaries of her husband’s estate if they turn out to be Fidel’s children.
Fidel, who died in January 2015 without leaving a will, had acquired several properties among them a house in Karen’s Tipuana Park, two pieces of land in Kisumu, a parcel of land in Kajiado, shares in Axum Investments Limited and Ambesa Investments Limited, and four vehicles.
Fidel also had seven bank accounts. The only liability revealed in the filings are debts to a credit card issued by Stanbic Bank’s Chiromo branch in Nairobi.
In refuting claims by the Odinga family that she excluded several properties from an inventory of assets her late husband owns, Ms Bekele alleged that her strained relationship with her mother-in-law was the real cause of the succession dispute.
“The averments are preposterous, offensive and made in bad taste. The first objector (Mrs Odinga) has the autopsy reports. I believe that the statement she recorded with the DCI following the death of Fidel informs the first objector’s averments and is the genesis of our differences. The first objector has continuously made false, defamatory and/or unkind remarks about my family, friends and I,” Ms Bekele says.
The Odingas claim that they unsuccessfully tried to reach out to Ms Bekele and her brother Fahm Getachew Bekele so that a joint application for administration of Fidel’s estate could be filed.
They added that Ms Bekele secretly filed an application for the control of Fidel’s assets and failed to furnish them with the application despite having an interest in the estate.
“The said grant was issued erroneously, as it unjustifiably locked out other interested parties from the estate of the deceased, his other children, his mother and sister, respectively. The proposed administrators cannot be entrusted alone to faithfully administer according to the law the estate of the deceased and render a true and just account of such estate.
“The proposed administrators of the deceased’s estate have already meddled with some of the properties. The objectors’ main interest in the estate is to protect, safeguard and guarantee the well-being of the grandchildren and ensure a proper account and distribution of the estate is carried out,” Mrs Odinga says.
The assets excluded — and which Ms Bekele now says she had no knowledge of — include three top-of-the-range vehicles, three bank accounts and her matrimonial home in Karen.
The two claim that shortly after Fidel’s burial, Ms Bekele “took off from her matrimonial home and cut all communications with the family of the deceased”.
But Ms Bekele insisted that she did not know of the Mercedes Benz Fidel owned, and that one of the Range Rovers in question is in the possession of her late husband’s business partner, only identified as Hossein, and who claims to have bought the vehicle.
The second Range Rover, Ms Bekele argues, is registered in the name of an individual identified as Yunis Muhammed.
As for their matrimonial home, Ms Bekele insists that its ownership fully shifted to her after Fidel’s death hence it cannot form part of her late husband’s estate.
Justice Muchelule directed the matter to be heard on November 13.