May 22, 2008
Why a kwanjula letter can stop a wedding
By Irene Kiiza

“If anybody has any reason as to why these two should not be joined together in marraige, say it now or forever hold your peace…” is a phrase I had gotten accustomed to at weddings that I had come to a point of regarding it as just a matter of procedure and nothing much would come out of it.

But the way things are going, it seems the bride, groom, their entourage and guests have to hold their breath until the couple is declared husband and wife.

In a matter of weeks, two weddings have been stopped at the altar, after women presented court injunctions.
In the first one, a one Rose Mirembe stopped a wedding at All Saints Cathedral Nakasero on April 26. Mirembe it is said, barred Samson Kasirye from wedding Jane Nakubulwa because he had married her customarily long before.
Funny enough, according to The New Vision of April 28, Nakubulwa lived with Kasirye before he met Mirembe, although they did not have children. At Nakubulwa’s suggestion Kasirye picked on Mirembe in a quest to have a child.

True Mirembe got a child, but by and by Nakubulwa too got a child and another, prompting the man to take her to the altar. This would mean that the Mirembe-Kasirye marriage would then be rendered null and void.

Just a week after, Kamuli District Assistant Chief Administration Officer, Patrick Kayima was to face the same monster when a woman he allegedly married customarily and had two children with, stopped his wedding at Jinja’s St. Fatima Church and like in the Serunkuma case, some guests went ahead to the feast although for this one the couple did not attend.

But sources at the wedding insist that Kayima had never married before, although the woman he had decided to abandon loved him too much that she managed to get a letter from her father, which her lawyer used to stop Kayima’s wedding.

Whether the story is true or not, all this takes us back to the Domestic Relations Bill, why can’t the legislators simply enact the bill and let the law take its course?
In these two examples, it seems clear that the women had no right to stop the weddings. But they had every right. Innocent Ngobi Ndiko, of Ngobi Ndiko and company advocates, says the women have the freedom to stop such weddings.

In both cases, the marriages were customary and therefore open to polygamy. And if the man chose to marry another woman, this time in church, the law says such a marriage would render all the other arrangements either of the couple would have entered invalid. So if the jilted woman does not act, it means after the wedding she would have no right to associate with the man in question in a marital way.

Whether out of pride or shame many women who are customarily married and dumped, sometimes with children, do not raise a finger. This means they have to pick up their pieces from nothing and look after their children, if any, single-handedly when they could have been helped legally.

Ndiko says, a man who is customarily married can marry another woman customarily since the marriages are open to polygamy, but cannot enter a monogamous arrangement.
“A church marriage is monogamous, the only way a person who has been customarily married can marry another person in church is by divorcing and agreeing to a settlement with his first wife, before going ahead with the wedding,” Ndiko explains.

Unless cleared, many women remain in a great quagmire. The biggest confusion is that okwanjula, is customarily considered a marriage, but some people look at it as a means to the marriage (meaning church, mosque or Registrar’s weddings). So if a person married customarily does not consider themselves married, they will go ahead and marry again without formally nullifying the first marriage; since to them it is simply a failed relationship.

But now that jilted women with kwanjula letters are stopping weddings at the eleventh hour, it is just about time people learnt how to end a customary marriage without worrying about aborted weddings. What this means is that, if you are toying with the idea of marrying a ‘married’ man, just make sure all is cleared legally before wasting time and money on a wedding that will most likely be called off.

On the other hand women who have been married customarily need to understand that their husbands cannot simply walk out on them. You are not kwanjulad like many want to refer to you; according to the Ugandan law, you are married.