Family exhumes bodies for Sh24b dam project in Gatundu

Coffins bearing the remains of Joseph Kimemia, his wife Magdalene Nyambura and son Sylvester Kimani after they were exhumed in Gathanji village, Gatundu North, on Friday. [Kamau Maichuhie, Standard]

A family has been forced to dig up three bodies of their relatives to pave way for the construction of a dam.

The family from Gathanji village in Gatundu North is one of 600 households that will be displaced by the Sh24 billion Karemenu Dam which is being funded by the Government of Kenya and China Exim Bank.

On Friday, the remains of Joseph Kimemia, his wife Magdalene Nyambura and their son Sylvester Kimani were exhumed in an emotional ceremony attended by relatives, friends and villagers.

Joseph and Magdalene died in 2005 and 2007, respectively, while Sylvester was buried in 2002.

Peter Mwangi, their son, said they had been forced to abandon their ancestral land after the Government acquired their four acres for the dam whose construction has already started.

“We are at peace as a family and have accepted the dam even though it is tormenting us. What we are requesting is for other affected people to follow our cue and exhume their loved ones,” said Mr Mwangi.

The three bodies were buried on Saturday in Nyandarua where the family has bought land after receiving compensation from the Government.

Friends and relatives

Mathew Mwangi, a grandson, said it would be difficult to adapt to their new home away from life-long friends and relatives.

“My parents and everyone in our family were affected by the exhumation. Emotions ran very high with some even crying,” he said.

He narrated to The Standard the tedious legal process of getting approval to exhume the bodies.

“We went to the Gatundu Law Courts where we made an application for an exhumation order, which was granted. The public health department also gave us a licence to carry out the exhumation,” he said.

Mwangi said more exhumations were expected in the coming days after 123 households received compensation for their land, while 116 families were yet to be paid in Phase One of the dam project.

Irene Njoki, a resident, said they will support the project as long as displaced families are compensated by the State.

“It is our hope that the completed dam will be beneficial to us by ensuring that the perennial water shortage becomes a thing of the past. We are also happy since our youth and locals will get jobs in the project” Ms Njoki said.

The construction of the multi-billion-shilling dam was characterised by delays after residents went to court last year to challenge a decision of the National Land Commission to revise compensation rates.

But early this year, residents and the Government agreed to settle the matter out court, paving way for the start of the project.