When death strikes
We hurt, we mourn and then bury and all we are left with, is nothing but memories of our loved ones. We do all we can, so as to give the deceased their last respect here on earth. But how do we do this?
As the culture is in Kenya, we try our best to conduct impromptu fundraising, so as to meet pending medical bills and prepare for a decent burial ceremony. Depending on what you wished for, or what your immediate family decides as well as many other considerations, the deceased will either be buried at their homes or even at the cemeteries as it is with many, who have spent their lives in town or those without land back at home.
My first time to visit a graveyard was during my stay in Norway and I actually blogged about it. Such was a peaceful experience and a great site to behold. Fast track the moment to last weekend and my heart bleed with bitterness.
One of my cousins, Jones Mwalegha passed on and I had a chance to travel to Mombasa so as to bid him goodbye. The burial took place a week after his death and therefore, many of us including his immediate family members had fairly come to terms with his departure.
Friday night, we all converged so as to make final plans for the following day. It happened that my nephew John and I were assigned to ensure that the burial site was in order before the body could be brought for burial. Saturday morning, before I could get there, John calls me and says, “Patience, I am afraid there is some more work to be done here. Please come over and let’s discuss about this.”
Makaburini in Leisure, Kisauni
This was at 10am and the burial was scheduled for 3pm. By 11am, I made my way to the cemetery in Kisauni, a place known as Makaburini. Accompanied by one of my cousins, we stop by the entrance to this cemetery and we are met by the stench that seems to have been the norm as informed by some of the people who reside nearby.
Clearly, we can spot my nephews car parked at some point, but we cannot see him. So we call him and ask him to give us directions to where he is. He waves at us from a distance and unfortunately we have to walk all the way, to meet him there. I look at him and wonder what could he be doing by the dumping site? And how is he managing the stench? So we decide to walk towards him. We realize he is accompanied by a group of about four men, who we later understood that they were part of the crew that was working on constructing the grave.
One minute into our walk, we realize we have to be extra careful not to step on human faeces that were the reason for the stench. Later, we were informed that the area served as toilets for the nearby slum dwellers. Such was a nasty experience, at one point I almost stepped on some faeces, urgggh!
Some of the cemeteries in Mombasa are in a better condition, so why is this place as it is? I ponder? Deep down in my heart, I felt the pain of losing my cousin refreshed. Is this where we will lay him? The site looked so miserable. I have always thought that it is automatic for people to have some respect for the dead and hence respect the grave yards. How did this place end up as it is? Who are the authorities involved? Why do people pay money to have their loved ones buried here? Why? These and many more questions crossed my mind.
Cemetery turned dumping site
I quickly had a chat with the people tasked to construct the grave and the stories I heard were miserable. For my family, my cousin had lost his wife thirteen years ago and it was his desire to be buried next to his wife. But, 13 years down the line, the place has slowly graduated into a dumping site and a few graves a seen as part of the garbage. What a sad site!
As a family, we did pay Ksh.31,000 for the whole construction that I was later informed catered for the construction materials and for the space. Really? I ask? So I put on my journalistic face and approach the caretaker manning this specific cemetery. I ask all the blonde questions and request him to explain to me like a three-year old, how he manages to convince anyone that he works at this cemetery and that he is happy working in the condition as it is.
While at this discussion, I have pleaded with him that there is a need to clear the surrounding area and maybe do something to the faeces lying all over, before the burial session later in the afternoon. He tries to gather his crew, who are not so happy, simply because Saturday, to them is not a working day and they do not get paid for it. But you see, this is none of my business, all I want is to have the area cleaned.
As this discussion progresses, it is clear that someone is not doing their job. So I ask, who is responsible for this mess? How come we have lost respect for the dead? He explains to me that he has tried his best, to have the area better than it is, but the city council responsible for its maintenance is yet to do something. He also mentions that the situation is worsened by the nearby slum dwellers who have been littering the place at night. He goes ahead to offer solution and says, “Once we have this area fenced, things will be different. It is hard to clean this area every other day and then it gets all littered at night.”
I will tell you for sure, this guy like any other human being, he had all sorts of people to blame and not himself. I was tempted to ask, where does the money people pay go to? He claims to have three workers and one of these is on leave at any given time so he cannot get all of them to work at the same time. But I am a grown up and I can clearly tell that I am being lied to. The garbage at the site, leave alone for the faeces, is garbage that has overstayed, garbage accumulated over months. The weeds and the unpruned trees makes the whole area look so bushy. Thank God none of us had a snake scare. A number of insects, rats and other rodents, have made this place their homes. The place has also become a hide-out for drug abusers.
So this gives you the scenario at some of the places we lay our beloved ones. Really, what happened to this specific grave yard? Who is fooling who? What is the county government doing about this? What about the money paid for this facility, where does it go to? If the dead woke up today, will we be ashamed of neglecting this place to such extent? I managed to contact the governor’s office at Mombasa and yes, I was promised that something will be done as soon as possible.
Over to you the Municipal Council of Mombasa and the various authorities…….please, can we have some respect for the dead?