KENYA: Kwale residents have rejected a move by an investor to establish a crematory.
The investor George Barbour, a Kenyan of British origin and who owns Ali Barbour and Forty Thieves restaurant in Diani, Kwale County, has already constructed the crematorium, but it lies dormant due to opposition from Mwakamba and Mivumoni residents.
The locals are against establishment of the crematory on grounds ranging from religious sensitivities to environmental concerns to myths that people may begin disappearing mysteriously.
Residents say it is against their traditions and religious beliefs to cremate bodies.
Reports indicate expatriate families and tourists from the West are open to the idea. Most cremations are conducted in Mombasa.
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There was a public meeting on Saturday to discuss the issue. After a vigorous debate, Mr Barbour was backed by only his girlfriend. Even those reported to have been initially open to the idea did not back him.
Barbour's explanation on the benefits of the facility fell on deaf ears as residents unanimously declined to allow the facility to operate. Barbour said the facility would boost tourism since most foreigners cremate their loved ones.
"Diani is a fast-growing multi-cultural destination and even if we don't have this facility now, in future we will have one," he said.
He gave an example of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates which despite being a Muslim nation in the Middle East has crematoriums. However, Barbour said cremation would not be forced on anyone.
"I understand your fears, but I ask you to be religiously tolerant and allow it to proceed as a business venture," he said.
National Council of Imams and Scholars Chairman Sheikh Amir Banda said Kenya and Abu Dhabi have different settings and therefore no similarity should be drawn between them.
"Don't compare us with Abu Dhabi. They are rich we are poor, they are Arabs and we are Africans," he said.
Area Chief Ali Mwakubo said Barbour should listen to residents and respect their traditions.