POLICE in Kenya have mounted a round-the-clock guard on a corpse while a Catholic bishop gives vital evidence in court that will decide its fate.
A macabre tug-of-war is going on in the Kenyan High Court for the custody of the body of the late Western Provincial Commissioner, Mr James Mburu, between his estranged first wife, Mrs Carmelina Ngami, and his second wife, Mrs Mary Nduta. Both of them have filed injunctions seeking legal permission to bury Mr Mburu at different ends of the country.
In an almost unprecendented move, the representative for Mrs Ngami called a leading bishop to declare the position of the Catholic Church on the question of the legitimacy of Mr Mburu's divorce and remarriage.
The bishop told a Kenyan Judge, Mr Justice Gachuhi, that in the eyes of the Church the first marriage was still valid. and that divorce was not recognised even when there were "difficulties", such as the couple remaining childless.
The bishop stressed that he was well aware of the sensitivity of the problem, particularly because the body was still in the mortuary. "This is why I said that the issue is delicate and sensitive," he said, adding that "this is despite the fact that we all know we will one day die."
Although it is unclear exactly the extent of the influence Church teachings have on the Kenyan legal code, it is thought that the bishop's evidence will nevertheless play a very important part in the outcome of the trial.