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Garbage blocks families from visiting graves of departed kin

By Joackim Bwana | July 21st 2021
A cemetery at Kongowea area in Mombasa County [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

July 16 is an important but also an emotional day for Bruno Mahoka.

On this day, Mahoka visits the graves of his wife, son and two brothers at Kongowea Public Cemetery in Nyali, Mombasa County.

Although Mahoka buried his wife in 1997, his son in 2019 and two brothers in 1990 and 1994, he commemorates their deaths on July 16.

But this year, he will not manage to do so because the graveyard is a landfill with mounds of waste.

“Why can’t they let my wife sleep in peace? She was a very tidy woman. But now her grave is covered with garbage,” said Mahoka.

Mahoka and his relatives were among the congregation from St Fatima Catholic Church, Kongowea, who had visited the graveyard.

They recited Bible verses while standing on a mound of garbage because they could not locate the graves.

The residents have pointed fingers at the county government for allowing the dumping of waste at the public cemetery that serves Christians in Kongowea and Nyali.

County chief of staff Joab Tumbo said the dumping of waste at the cemetery was illegal.

He said that the county government had ordered that the place be cleaned up in a week, adding that it was morally wrong to dump waste at the cemetery.

“A cemetery is where we bury our loved ones. It is wrong to turn it to a dumpsite,” said Tumbo. “There are designated dumpsites in the county.”

He said the county government had received complaints, and they were in the process of restoring the cemetery to its original status.

At the site, while Mahoka was praying, lorries were dumping garbage. “It is very disrespectful to the dead,” said Mahoka, amid tears.

The road leading to the cemetery has been overrun by traders. Their is on graves next to the pathway.

And with this, Mahoka wonders how the Catholic church will conduct prayers at the cemetery in December.

“We always come here every year with the Bishop to pray but with this garbage, I am not sure it will happen,” said Mahoka.

He said that they had raised the concerns but the county government and commissioner had not taken any action. 

Joyce Bruno, a community health worker, said all other cemeteries in the country are well taken care of, except the one at Kongowea.

She said her family usually holds prayers at the cemetery on November 2. “We have seen the county trucks dumping waste at there and some graves are exposed as a result of digging up the waste,” she said.

Peter Bruno, son of Mahoka, asked Governor Hassan Joho, MP Mohamed Ali and other officials to have the waste removed and a wall built around the cemetery.

Father Benedict Kitonyi of Kongowea Catholic Church confirmed that the church members had complained about the garbage at the cemetery.

He said, before the Covid-19 pandemic, they used to conduct prayers at the site in November for families that lost their loved ones.

“God created humans with dignity and that is why we bury them with respect. We should not, therefore, disrespect their graves,” said Kitonyi.

He also noted that tractors had dug up some skeletons while picking up garbage.

“It is painful for families. Personally, I would not be okay,” said Kitonyi.

Mustapha Njeru said he had come from Nyali to visit his mother’s grave and was shocked to find a heap of garbage at the cemetery. “

Her grave is not visible anymore,” he said. 

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