Tradition dictates that a married woman cannot be buried if the husband is yet to dowry.

Msahau mila ni mtumwa (he who forgets tradition is a slave) a common Swahili adage goes. In some Kenyan tribes, tradition dictates that a married woman cannot be buried if the husband is yet to dowry.

A family in Shamberere, Kakamega County was forced to adhere to tradition after their deceased daughter-in-law ‘refused’ to be buried since her bride price was yet to be paid.

Speaking to KTN, a neighbour claimed that after the woman’s death, her brothers demanded her dowry to be paid but their wishes were not fulfilled.

Angered by the move, the brothers swore that she would not be buried till their demands were met.

Clenched fist

On the day of burial, the body was removed from the mortuary and transported to the in-law’s home for burial.

“They two families, which hail from different Luhya sub-tribes had initially fought over where the deceased's head should face when buried,” the neighbour said.

On the night prior to the burial, they noticed something was amiss; the deceased had clenched her fists.

“We've seen miraculous things here today. When we ferried the body from the hospital, the hands were open but at night, she had clenched her fists,” a witness said.

Despite their best efforts, the in-laws were unable to pry open the dead woman’s hands.

“They burial service ended at 1 pm but by 4 pm, she'd not been buried and mourners started streaming out,” said a villager.


According to Luhya traditions, one cannot be buried with clenched fists.

Faced with a crisis, the in-laws sought to resolve the matter and inter the woman.

“They gave her family a cow and money so they can tell her to unclench her fists,” said a mourner.