This British man who moved to Kenya to build hospitals and stayed after falling in love has died in poverty in a mud hut claiming he lost everything after his wife sold his property and eloped with another man.
Barry Leonard Humber, 80, had gone to the African country in the 70s as part of a joint project with the UK government to send builders to work in the local construction industry.
At the time he held two PhDs, one in Building Science and another in Commercial Science and Special Building Technology, and he said the fact that there were almost no professional builders in the country when he arrived in 1976 meant there was lots of work to do.
He had travelled all around Kenya working on building health facilities with cash provided from countries like Germany, Finland and Denmark. He was the manager on several construction projects including the St Luke’s Hospital-Kaloleni, Dreamland Medical Centre Kaptola-Kimilili, Nala Community Hospital-Kakamega, Sirisia, Naitiri, Mautuma and Sio Port health centres.
When the project was over, local managers begged him to stay, and as he had fallen in love, he had accepted the offer, marrying Elizabeth Humberin in the Kakamega’s Anglican Church of Kenya in 1978.
After the couple settled in western Kenya, he bought land which he had put in his then-Kenyan wife’s name. He said she had been a cook when they met, and that together they had adopted five foster children, including one who was motorbike taxi driver and who was one of the few who continued to try and care for him after he lost everything.
Speaking to local media a tearful Barry said it all went sour after he caught her in bed with another man. He said: “My wife eloped with another man. She has sold all my property. I have been left with nothing. She sold all my 33 acres of land and now she is planning to sell the remaining land to render me a squatter in my own land.”
He would have been homeless after the divorce in 2005 were it not for the fact that well-wishers had built a mud hut in the Malava rain forest, in Kenya’s Kakamega County.
Despite this kindness he lived in poverty suffering from several severe illnesses including cancer in his right ear, high blood pressure and swollen feet, staying as he said in the hope of finding justice.
He needed daily treatment for his feet which was provided for free by a health centre. Tragically however he lacked transport from his rainforest home to receive it on most days, and described life at the end as “hell on earth.” In the last few months he had been rendered completely immobile.
Speaking about his life early in local media he said: “When I arrived, the request was for me to stay in Kenya for one year only.”
But he said that retired Kenyan President Moi that was managing his projects passed on a message personally from the then-President of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, who said that they desperately needed his assistance as he had skills that they did not then have in the country.
He said: “The vice president Moi said he had spoken to President Kenyatta and told him ‘Here we have a man who understands us. And he is able to do what we have always wanted to do’.”
He said that they had told him they had “asked the Queen” (sic) for permission to make him a Kenyan citizen and that he had agreed.
He later said he believes it was an elaborate con saying: “I was not allowed to buy the land they told me. What is going on here I thought to myself. But some of you people are game players.
“I don’t understand why I had a Kenyan citizenship but it didn’t qualify me as a Kenyan to buy land here. (sic)”
Local media reports previously described him as a “one-time millionaire” although his previous net worth is unknown.
With no money even to buy food, he was reportedly often hungry apart from when neighbours, and his motorbike taxi driver foster son took pity on him and provided him with food.
Local media meanwhile have now reported that villagers who did what they could to help him are struggling to come to terms with the death of the once influential man who touched the lives of many through his architectural services and philanthropic activities like adopting the local children.
The foster son who was not named said: “The old man has suffered a lot. We accept God’s will to relieve him of such pains.”
He added that they were now asking government aid to pay the funeral costs.
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