1986 sm otieno burial intrigues

In 1986 after criminal lawyer SM Otieno died of heart attack, his widow Wamboi Otieno and his clansmen from Umira Kager, became engaged in a fierce court battle over his remains.

Wambui who wanted to bury her husband in their matrimonial home in Ngong eventually lost the battle to her in-laws, and Otieno was buried at his ancestral home in Siaya.

Among those who testified before Justice Samuel Bosire was a Luo witch doctor who claimed SM Otieno’s spirit was speaking through him. He told the court:

"When I died last December I knew that my death would trigger off a tussle which might even threaten the essence of a marriage between Kikuyus and Luos. But I also knew that my death would be the greatest, toughest lesson to those who intermarry. People have always preached the doctrine of intermarriage but few have practised it.

"My people are still tribalists deep inside them. That’s why a Luo who marries a Kikuyu wife could even be ostracised by his clansmen. The same thing would happen to the Kikuyu wife. Her people might disown her for living with an uncir- cumcised person from Nyanza.

"When I married Wambui I was convinced my marriage and my whole life was going to be the living example for those who wish to intermarry. Little did I know that my death would turn out to be the actual example. Now I know that man is a tribalist deep down in his bones.

"See how the Luos dance on the streets of Nairobi. See the jubilation and the feasting and be shocked at the realisation that behind all these there is my dead body rotting in the City Mortuary. Why should the Luos fight so hard just to own my remains? See the thousands of shillings being contributed for my funeral expenses.

"Should people spend more money on a corpse than they did on the living man? See my clansmen, and then see my beloved wife, the fighter. Must she continue fighting so hard even over my dead body? Must she take a whole tribe to court just because of a corpse?

"See the large sums of money she is spending on these legal tussles. Can’t she see that at this moment the money is more important than the corpse? She will need the money to look after herself and the children, and the corpse is of no use at all.

"From up here I see my body rotting at the mortuary and this is the most repugnant ritual. And this is all because of my wife’s aggressiveness. In this land of the dead I am not a Luo. There are no tribes here, races or cultures. We are all one tribe of happy people who will never die again.

"We don’t do any work and we don’t need any nourishment. In this land beyond the grave the only tribe is known as “The Dead”. But this must be understood by all those who are in the land of the living. It must be understood that I was born a Luo and that all the children I fathered have Luo blood in them. They also have Kikuyu blood but that does not make them Kikuyus.

“I am dead and I will not return to the land of the living. I own nothing of value on earth and every- thing I ever owned has been inherited by my wife and children. I own only one valueless item, the rotting body at the mortuary. I beg my wife, my children and my clansmen to leave my body alone. Leave it for the worms to feed on. It’s my body. Only the worms of mother earth would have any reason to claim it. Let those who have ears hear!”

The same witch doctor would later testify before the Gicheru Commission claiming being possessed by Dr Robert Ouko’s spirit.


Nice read