In ordinary times, the burial of 99-year-old Zakayo Migwi would not have raised eyebrows. But regulations and protocols to curb the spread of the coronavirus meant that the polygamous nonagenarian’s burial was one of a kind.
With the government stipulating that only 15 close relatives are allowed in a funeral, the family in Meru was in a dilemma on how to perform the burial rites of their patriarch.
Who among his immediate family members in excess of 200 would attend the burial and who would not? It was a tough balancing act for the family which was also keen not to upset the government.
They were faced with a challenge conducting the funeral in conformity with government regulations and protocols. Migwi died barely five months short of his 99th birthday. He had 10 wives, 24 children and more than 200 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And that’s according to the eulogy.
But some of his relatives say the patriarch had other wives and children in his early life.
The family, however, managed to wriggle through the dilemma, holding the ceremony with family members being the only attendants.
The police watched helplessly, and understandably so, as the burial ceremony took place.
It turned out to be a unique one but it raised curiosity among the villagers in the sleepy village of Mwiriene in Igembe North.
Due to the size of the compound, social-distancing was impossible.
“Only 36 of my siblings, four wives and 200-odd grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren attended the burial,” said Isaiah Migwi.
Isaiah, 62, is Migwi’s fourth child. Even his own children, including his 42-year-old son, could not attend the burial.
Migwi was buried at the home of his fifth born Joseph, 60. Jerusha Kabiria, his firstborn is now 73, while Hellen Kamencu, the second born is 68. Julia Itura, the third born, is deceased.
Joseph is the Antubetwe Kiongo location chief but attended as a son, not an administrator.
He too is a polygamist, with 11 wives and 13 grandchildren.
Isaiah said they had lit a huge fire near the burial site and family members will continue to feed it with firewood until all close family arrive from different parts of Kenya.
Migwi made his wealth as a road constructor and coffee farmer. He was credited with opening many of the major roads in the Igembe region.
In a past interview with our sister publication The Nairobian, Migwi said: “I had over a million coffee trees at Antubetwe Kiongo, which I sold at Sh1 apiece and afterwards planted miraa. I sold a lot of miraa to traders from Isiolo. Back then there were only three of us with miraa in the area.”
One his wives, Mary Kambura, said he lived long in good health because of a strict diet. In old age, he suffered from diabetes and mainly ate mashed bananas, potatoes, yams and millet porridge.
“He kept off rice and ugali too,” Kambura said.