Cry of a Diaspora Kenyan who travels 60,000 miles a year seeking justice,

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Gilphine Muchinyi.“My name is Gilphine Muchinyi. The journey of my life begun in 1996. This was the year that my husband lost his job. He was working as an engineer with the City Council. My husband was a very hardworking man.  Being the fourth born in a family of 9, his determination and perseverance had eventually elevated him to the role of sole breadwinner for the family.

My husband would lose his job as a result of an investigation that was going on at the City Council, where he had been implicated in a fraud scandal. The investigations meant that he would be on half pay.  I however, never doubted his innocence and I stood by him. After all, our vows were for good or bad, in sickness and in health! Luckily, I had a job working as a Registered Nurse (RN) at the Nairobi Hospital.

But my earnings were not enough to cover all our family expenditure. We had to pay schools fees for our children; 2 in St. Mary’s and another one in Loreto. My husband also had a son from a previous relationship and I was raisin him. I his mom as well. We were still servicing a loan of Ksh 14 million with a local bank which we had secured to buy and develop a plot at Tasia, and another loan of KS 2 million with the HFCK. The extended family was also relying on us for financial support.  I do not have to mention that our sugarcane farming in Mumias was not doing well. In six months, the situation was exacerbated by the fact the City Council froze my husband’s salary.

We had to think of a way to salvage the situation. I had told my cousins in America about our predicament. One of them advised me to try the U.S. she mentioned that with my background in nursing, I could get a job with a good pay and perhaps this could help my family out. In 1997, I bought this idea.  But before I did this, my husband and I talked about it, looked at the pros and cons and concluded that giving America a shot was the better option. And so, I migrated to the USA on a student Visa.

In America, a friend took me in and after a week or so, I got a job working as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). I did this job for 6 months. I was working my butt off (sic) and with what I was making and sending back home, we managed to pay off the loans. Also, since my husband had acquired a lawyer to contest charges by the City Council, I was able to cater for the legal fees. Moreover, I was able to pay school fees for our kids and that of 3 extended family members we were educating.

After 6 months working as a CNA, and granted that I was a trained and experienced RN, I decided to challenge the RN examination in America. Getting certified as a RN was the best avenue that I had to making a decent living in America and helping my family back home. This is a very difficult examination and people who have done it will tell you how exhausting and difficult it is to pass.  I had bought a few text books to prepare myself for the test but I did not have the time to study. I told myself that I would use all the knowledge and experience I had acquired from my job and education in Kenya and make an attempt at the exam. Besides, I told myself that if I failed, I would be in a better position to approach the examination on a later attempt.  But God was on my side.  I passed the examination, and was certified as a RN.  With the RN license, I could now petition for a Green Card based on my skills. I roped in the services of a lawyer to process my application, and he advised me that I could also include my family in the petition. Yay! All was looking good and the future could only be brighter-or so I thought.

Meanwhile, my husband tried to get a visa in order to visit me but his attempts did not succeed. He tried twice but on both occasions he was given a resounding “NO!”  The news got even worse. When I had made the Green Card application, I had also applied for a ‘Parole,’ which is a document that allows one to travel without restrictions while waiting for the Green Card. Remember that I had used a student visa to gain entry to the U.S and had overstayed the required period. As such I could not just travel. But when I thought I was getting confirmation my ‘Parole’ had gone through, I received communication that my application got lost!  This means my husband and I had to stay apart for some time. Finally, in 2002, my Green Card went through. I was excited because now I could go visit my family back home. May I note that in 1999, I had managed to bring my step-son to America after his forth form, and took him to college here! He is married now.

Suffice to say, I had missed my husband. He was the rock of my heart. I remember looking in his eyes the first time that we met, and I would say it was love at first sight. We got married 1982 and lived a happy life.  It looked like the righteous winds were blowing on the direction of our family, because a year before I got my Green Card, my husband won his case against the City Council and got his job back.

With the money I had made for over a period of 3 or so years working as a RN, we easily managed to buy one Hectare of land in Karen. You see, working as a RN in America, you can easily make very good money.  In the year 2001, we started constructing the house in Karen. I had a mortgage for a house I had bought in Palmdale in California and I refinanced the mortgage and used the money thereof for the construction of this house. I also withdrew my savings from my 401K insurance plan and put all the money in the construction of the Karen house.  In addition I also financed the purchase of plots in Kitengela and Athi River.I recall when I went home in 2001, my mother in law specifically asked me to move her from Busia to Mumias, after a lengthy discussion with my husband, I fulfilled her wish in 2001, and built her a house, financed by my earnings

House built by Gilphine for mom-in law in Mumias.

HOUSEBUILTBYGILPHINE FORMOM-INLAWINMUMIAS.

In 2005, when I visited Kenya, I was met by some good news and bad news. The good news was that the Karen home was now complete. The bad news was that things looked fuzzy.  You see, on previous occasions when I went home, my husband and I would spend time together and do things as a couple would do. But this time round, he seemed elusive, not wanting to spend time with me or sparing moments where we could work on our projects together. My gut would tell me all was not okay. Maybe this was just a whisper and I would get the scream later on? Maybe

Part of Karen home

PART OF KAREN HOME

Part of our plan that year was that we would all relocate to America. But with my husband looking elusive and not wanting to communicate with me on some issues as I would have expected, I started sensing something was amiss. But then again, I justified his behavior with the reason that maybe he was very busy at work, more so because he had only a few years back gotten his job back. Perhaps he had a backlog of things he had to take care of!  I remember him saying he could not travel at that time to America because he was supposed to go to Israel on a work related trip. He said he would come together with the children later on. I agreed.  I however, would be surprised a few months later to see his brother bring the children! He did not inform me that he would be coming. This was a change of plan I had not expected.

In December 2006 when i visited home, I found out that my husband had moved in with new woman in our Tasia matrimonial home. At first I was shocked, lost for words, feeling betrayed. But I composed myself and decided to be as calm as I could. I was very close to my mother in law and when I informed her what I had discovered, she told that when men begin doing ‘such things,’ they do not change. I listened to her. I decided to accept the reality and move on.  But what was obnoxious was the fact that he was going against the very Luhya culture that he swore by. According to Luhya customs, a man cannot take another woman to the room or the house of the first wife. I informed her mom, uncles and wazees about this cultural misstep my husband was undertaking. They all talked to him and he listened. He moved to South C, but I think he became bitter that I had reported him. He reacted by filing for divorce, which I never signed.

I could not stay in Nairobi for long. I had to move back to America because of work and other commitments.  I left my husband with the message that if he decides to join me in Diaspora, he was welcome at any time. However, he chose to stay. I did not have a problem with that. As long as the children were okay, I felt I had inner peace. That I was not over reacting seemed to anger my husband. I had decided that I would not even try to antagonize his life and his choices.

As Dr. King would say, the world rolls on the wheels of inevitability. My husband passed away in 2011. That in itself, marked the beginning of battles I never expected I would fight. When my husband passed on, my brother in-law came up with a ‘will’ which purported my husband done a division of property which bequeathed everything to him. At that point, I got a lawyer in order to straighten things up.

I thought this case would be easy. I had all the evidence to back the fact that this was still my husband, and that it was my money that had bought the property that my brother in law was now claiming. When sending money back home to finance all these projects, I would make bank to bank transfers, meaning I have a trail of everything single cent I had sent home. As you may see, my contest is not about anything, but fairness, a fairness premised on the fact that there was no property division that was done and as such no one should be claiming to have been ‘willed’ the very property I worked hard for.

What is strange though is that since the case begun in 2011, my opponents keep postponing the case for their own reasons. I am facing off with 2 lawyers, one for the will and another one representing the girlfriend. I am surprised that the two lawyers were able to get a court consent that bars me from going anywhere near the Karen property. How could that happen yet I am the one who bought this land and even built the house, why was the consent okayed in my absence?

But that is not enough. In 2011, when the first hearing of the case came up, I had to fly from California to Nairobi. However, at the eleventh hour, the lawyer of the girlfriend said that his father had passed on. This I could understand because it can happen to anyone. After 3 months, another date for the hearing was set. I travelled from California to Nairobi. This time, the lawyer for the will said he was not feeling well. The hearing was postponed.

The following year, in 2012, my lawyer called me and told me that a date for the hearing had been set. Again, I travelled from California to Nairobi. On this occasion, the court said that it would only cater for 4 cases. Our case was not among the 4 that were heard that day. This time, it was the court postponing my day in court.

After 3 months, another date for the hearing was set. Again, I boarded a plane from California to Nairobi. When we got to the court, my opponent had an excuse that saw the postponement of the hearing. This has been the pattern. It is either the court or the lawyers postponing the hearing. In total, each year, since 2011, I have made 3 trips each year, ostensibly for the hearing, which is postponed at the eleventh hour, without prior warning or notice. We are talking about a distance of 10,000 miles from Los Angeles to Nairobi. Three times a year, that’s around 60,000 miles in total. I am also the one paying for these flights.  In a sense I feel like a woman who is being fought by so many forces.  I have made over 15 trips to Kenya since 2011, just for this case, just to get a hearing, which has never materialized.

All this has taken toll on me. I had to resign from my position at work as I could not cope with the demands of work, made worse by the disappointments and frustrations of the court processes, including the futile travels. At this point in time it looks like all the investments I made back home will never mean anything for me. I now understand why some Kenyans in Diaspora are not keen at investing in the motherland and would rather put all their resources here in America or in their current country of residence. I worked hard when I could. I never knew it would come to this. I cry every day and every night hoping that all would end well for me. Even though I am a Christian and I know the power of prayer, sometimes I do not have the energy, the will and the desire to keep pushing. It is all energy consuming.

I do not get any single cent from rental income from this property. What motivation would a person have to invest back home? I thought I could use this income to put my kids through college. 2 of my children are in medical school here in America, while another one is in college. They do not work because of the enormity of school work, and as a result I have to foot their bills. I also have to service the mortgage that I had refinanced in order to get money to invest back home.

In as much it is disappointing, I must admit that some of my in-laws have been very supportive. My mother in law was very distressed with this issue to the extent she called my husband’s cousin, engaged a lawyer and drafted an affidavit on my behalf to correct any lies and innuendos that may have been fronted by my husband’s girlfriend. But she is no longer with us. She passed on in 2011 and always yearned for fairness. Her prayer was that one day I will get justice. I am not bitter with my in-laws. The exception has been my two brothers-in law who have decided to fight a woman, a powerless woman. I took care of 14 siblings from my husband side, lived with over 10 of them and employed 6 of them including the one fighting me.

All i cry for now is justice. Justice. Justice.”

Editor’s Note: Gilphine had hoped  to raise this issue with president Uhuru Kenyatta during his planned Los Angeles trip which unfortunately did not materialize.  During the Diaspora meeting in Los Angeles,  hosted by ambassador Githae, and in presence of Cabinet Secretary Matiang’i, 2 members of parliament and representatives from the private sector, Gilphine narrated part of her story and pleaded for help to get her case resolved, or heard, for that matter granted she has to travel for so many miles. The CS promised to mention the nature of her case to the Chief Justice. She continues to wait.

By Mukurima X Muriuki, Los Angeles/mukurimax.com

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