Villagers yesterday protested against a Chinese constructor, who is excavating murram for road works, for exhuming 36 human skeletons at a graveyard.
A tycoon allegedly sold the disputed graveyard at Kiteta in Kyatune location within Kitui South constituency to Sinohydro, the Chinese company that is constructing the Kibwezi-Kitui road.
The excavation has been going on for some time, with residents saying they have witnessed digging up of human skulls and bones together with rotten wooden coffins.
A visit by The Standard at the site found excavators roaring in the dusty and dry village.
Residents congregated yesterday at the graveyard to demonstrate against what they described as disturbing the peace of the dead.
According to some of the locals, the disputed land was their inheritance and they had set aside a section for a graveyard.
The land belonged to Mutuku Mutunga, who died some years back. His three wives died a few years later and were also buried at the disputed graveyard.
Armed with court documents, Mary Mutuku, one of Mutuku Mutunga’s relatives, showed how a man has been claiming their land unsuccessfully, despite a Kitui court having ruled in their favour on the matter in 1991.
“Some rich man has been disturbing us in this village. He wants to sell to the Chinese the entire village simply because the area is endowed with road construction materials. Regarding this disputed land, on June 26, 1991, as indicated in this document, a Kitui court ruled that the land was ours but that has not deterred the claimant and today we saw tractors on our land. He has sold the land to a Chinese road construction company in the pretext that it is his,” said Mutuku.
An elderly man who did not want to be named for fear of victimisation said after the claimant lost the case, he talked to clan elders who ruled that he be given a portion of the vast land but not the graveyard.
He said the decision to sell the graveyard might have been prompted by the fact that the site has plenty of murram, hence can fetch good money.
Ngenea Mutuku, the third wife of Mutuku Mutunga, was the last person to be buried on the land.
An elderly woman who knew where her grave was located showed The Standard what she claimed were her remains.
“These are fresh bones. The woman was buried recently as you can see. Other bones have been dumped together with the murram at the road construction site. It is dehumanising to see the remains exhumed and thrown beside the road. The family has a right to be compensated, shift the graveyard and re-bury their loved ones elsewhere,” said Mwangangi Makau, a neighbour.
Among the Kamba, the dead are respected as per the community’s culture and traditions. Like many other African communities, they treasure their loved ones even in death and belief that the dead have a role to play in their daily lives.
Once their graves are disturbed, rites must be performed to appease their spirits.
When contacted, Jacob Ouma, Mutumo sub-county deputy county commissioner, accused the locals of not reporting the matter to the authorities for necessary action to be taken.
“Nobody has come to my office to complain,” said Mr Ouma.
The sub-county deputy county commissioner, however, said that if the company had exhumed bodies, then it had acted against the law.
Sinohydro, through a senior manager identified only as Lee, said it was unaware of the dispute.
The man accused of selling the land to the Chinese road construction company could not be reached for comment.