In Cheptul village, Manda-Shivanga ward, Lugari sub-county, a 42-year-old woman named Rebecca Moi finds herself at the center of a cultural storm.
Rebecca’s life had been relatively stable and happy. She had been married to Daniel Moi Samuel for eight years, and they were blessed with four children.
However, in August 2018, her world was shattered when her husband tragically lost his life in a road accident along the Webuye-Eldoret highway.
Little did she know that her ordeal was just beginning.
After her husband’s burial, Rebecca’s father-in-law presented her with a demand that would turn her life upside down.
He insisted that she marry her brother-in-law through the traditional practice of widow inheritance. Faced with this ultimatum, Rebecca refused, taking a brave stand against a deeply entrenched cultural practice.
Her resistance had dire consequences. Her father-in-law demolished her house and forcibly evicted her from his compound.
“He demolished my house and forced me out of his compound. The county government through the widow shelter program constructed for me a house but my father-in-law again insisted that for me to start living in the house I must be inherited by his son.’
He continued to insist that Rebecca must be inherited by his son, making her eligibility to live in the newly constructed house contingent upon her compliance with this cultural norm.
Despite her pleas and efforts to seek help from village elders, the area administrator, and the children’s department, her father-in-law remained steadfast in his demands.
She was forced to stay in a rental house for three months and when she was unable to pay rent, she ended up on the streets where a neighbour took her to a vacant house in Tande.
“The owner of the house is almost coming back and I don’t know how I will survive. I am appealing to authorities to help me get back to my home, give my children a decent life, and take them to school since I survive on digging people’s farms where I get an average of Sh150 which goes to buying food,” she says.
She insists that she resisted the practice because it can expose her to many risks including that of getting infected with sexually transmitted diseases.
Rebecca’s father-in-law, Samuel Amakhaya Mwanzo, refutes the claims made against him, suggesting that they are intended to tarnish his reputation. He claims that Rebecca left their home without informing them and even married someone else in another village. He argues that traditions were not conducted before she could return to her house, and she chose to cohabit with different men.
However, Rebecca’s brother-in-law, Isaac Wumba, adds a different perspective to the story.
He alleges that Rebecca was caught having affairs with multiple men, and he urges her to take responsibility for her children, as their late brother left behind three acres of land that could provide for their future.
Local authorities have also weighed in on the matter. Cheptuli assistant chief Philip Chaos acknowledges his awareness of the case and how he helped mediate the dispute.
According to him, Rebecca had previously experienced disputes with her late husband, and after his death, she left the matrimonial home, leasing her farm. When she got married elsewhere, she was unable to return due to tradition. The county government even constructed a house for her, but she did not return, and cohabited with different men, leading to further complications.