Why State will not foot funeral expenses of Shakahola massacre victims

Homicide detectives carrying bodies of cult victims in Shakahola forest ,Kilifi county. [Marion Kithi Standard]

The government will not foot the funeral expenses of 429 victims of the Shakahola massacre in Kilifi county.

Speaking on Wednesday at the Malindi sub-county mortuary, Chief Government pathologist Johansen Oduor said that families of the Shakahola victims should prepare to foot the funeral expenses.

"Currently, the government has no plans to fund burial expenses and we are encouraging relatives to come up with their means of transporting the bodies to their final destination," Dr Oduor said.

He revealed that families have been notified to pick bodies of their loved ones and the first batch will arrive on March 26 at Malindi sub-county morgue.

Dr Oduor further said that families have to come with a letter from the area chief for purposes of identification.

"Families are further required to come with the person who donated the DNA being the person who is directly involved with the deceased and upon coming we will offer counseling and then give them bodies of their loved ones," he said.

Giving his account of the identification process, the pathologist revealed that one of the biggest challenges was the lack of cooperation from family members due to stigma around the cause of death which was linked to cultism.

"The biggest challenge is we have done profiles on several bodies, however linking them to the people who donated the DNA is where the challenge is because they are not linked to those particular DNA donors," he said.

He said this has slowed down the identification process.  The process of taking DNA samples is expected to re-start in Malindi and Nairobi to help the families identify their loved ones. At one point, the exercise was stopped due to budget constraints.

So far, the Government Chemist has identified 30 bodies through DNA, and four more bodies were physically identified by the deceased’s relatives.

On unclaimed bodies, Dr Oduor said the state will bury them as per the law.

"We will bury them in a way that they can be traced so that if someone comes up and DNA is taken and they are linked we can always exhume and give them the body," he said.

Detectives are expected to start the fifth phase of exhumation in Shakahola forest after the release of bodies which Dr Oduor said will be done in two weeks.

Detectives had earlier identified 35 mass graves. So far 429 bodies have been exhumed since the exercise began on April 21, last year but the figure is expected to rise.

Families of the victims had appealed to the government to consider footing funeral expenses.

Francis Wanje whose two grandsons and daughter Emily Wanje's DNA matched says the family has already made burial arrangements.

"Our families have already prepared for the burial and we have decided to bury my daughter and her two children in Muyeye village, her husband's home," he said.