Likoni families, elder protest attempt to move cemetery

Likoni residents gather at Makame cemetery. [Weldon Kemboi, Standard]

Likoni elders and families whose loved ones are buried in Makame cemetery where the proposed Likoni-Mombasa bridge will pass, yesterday protested over plans to exhume the remains and relocate them.

They claim State authorities, including the National Museums of Kenya (NMK), made a unilateral decision to move the cemetery without consulting them.

The government is planning to construct Mombasa Gate Bridge that will connect Mombasa island to South Coast through Likoni.

The elders and families alleged that they have been given 10 days by NMK to make up their minds on plans to exhume the remains of their loved ones.

They said the 2-acre piece of land has 1,807 bodies.

The men and women held prayers before registering their protest, signifying  communication with the dead, according to Mijikenda tradition.

Through their spokesman Hamisi Mangi, the families said they were against exhumation of the bodies of their loved ones as it was taboo.

They warned of dire consequences if the government exhumes the bodies.

The elders who had resorted to second option of compensation from the government had asked for Sh400,000 for each grave but the Kenya National Museum opposed and instead asked them to calculate the transportation fee  of the remains of their loved ones and items used during burial which it projected will not cost more that Sh2000.

Mr Hamisi who alleged that his parents and his elder sister have been buried in the said cemetery asked the relevant authorities to look for another option as space to bury loved ones was running out in Likoni due to population increase.

“The NMK officials came here last Tuesday and threatened us saying the government project will go as planned, we aren’t opposed to the project but we are asking them to do it in a humane way,” Mr Bakari said.

“The dead should be left in peace, now they want to exhume them where are we going to bury them with no compensation?” he posed.

Salim Ali Kinyezi whose sister and father were recently buried in the cemetery told Saturday Standard they had given the government the third option of constructing a perimeter wall around the cemetery.

“Let them build their project but leave alone our loved ones. Some of us are still in pain and coming to terms with the loss, the National Museums of Kenya should build a shrine on the land instead of seeking to exhume bodies,” Ali said.

Mwandale Hamisi said they were psychologically tortured after hearing the news.

He said no project is worth disturbing their loved ones and they should be left in peace. They cited the 1993 tragedy where seven people were attacked by sharks on the beach along the cemetery saying the ancestors were angry with them.