Shakahola: State should foot victims' funeral bills

Families of Shakahola massacre victims at the Malindi sub-county morgue where they camped for the collection of bodies of their loved ones. [Marion Kithi, Standard]

The journey to closure for families that lost relatives to the Shakahola cult began early this week when they started collecting the victims' bodies.

Thirty-four out of the 429 bodies that have been lying at the Malindi Sub County Hospital are being released to relatives for burial.

Sadly, as they started collecting the bodies of their loved ones, some people complained that they lacked the means to ferry the bodies home -some of the victims were from as far as Western Kenya- and to give them a decent burial. This is understandable considering the tough economic times that the country is going through.

Unfortunately, for reasons best known to it, the government last week hinted that it will not foot the funeral bills of the Shakahola massacre victims.

That is shocking considering that these families are victims of a tragedy that was not of their own making. They deserve help just like the other victims of similar tragedies. It has been a tradition in this country that victims of such tragedies are helped by the government or through donations of senior government officials. In 2019, for instance, the government funded the funeral of 43 landslide victims in West Pokot besides paying for the treatment of those who were injured.

Only recently, the County Government of Nairobi waived all medical fees in its facilities of victims of the Embakasi fire tragedy. And only days ago, President William Ruto donated Sh2 million to help in the burial of 11 Kenyatta University students who died in a road accident. Similar sympathy should have been directed to the families of the cult victims.

It would be wrong for the government to leave the burial burden to these families, that have been in mourning for months, considering that it was partly responsible for what befell them. This is because it was the inaction - deliberate or otherwise - of the security apparatus in Kilifi County that led to the needless deaths.

The Kenya Kwanza government should therefore continue with the Kenyan tradition of helping the bereaved by standing with these families at this difficult moment. Leaving these families to their own devices is to neglect them at their hour of need.