A family in Kakamega County’s Navakholo Sub-county is in pain after spending large sums of money on burial arrangements for a body that later turned out not to be that of their deceased relative.
Emmanuel Shamwata, an overseer at the Church of God in Elwai, had a long illness and died at home before being taken to a mortuary in Kakamega town.
Shamwata’s family was shocked to learn, moments after his burial on July 30, that they had buried a strange body due to a mix-up at the mortuary.
A family from the neighbouring Malava Sub-county stormed Shamatwa’s house, demanding the body of a loved one. Meshack Ambundo, the late Shamwata’s son, said the mix-up at the mortuary was unavoidable because there were two bodies with similar names. They were both given the name Emmanuel.
“We were at home when another family arrived brandishing a letter from the mortuary, which stated that they were the rightful owners of the body we had buried the day before, which belonged to one Emanuel Shiyonga,” Ambundo said.
He said family members who went to the mortuary failed to identify his father’s body before leaving. He believes the mortician may have misread the names and placed identical tags on both bodies.
Both families appeared perplexed and shaken by the development, which is regarded as a bad omen among the Luhyas. Despite being deeply rooted in Christianity, the late Shamwata’s family was forced to seek the advice of traditional elders on how to handle the situation.
“The elders will be here at night to oversee the body exhumation process and perform cleansing rituals in accordance with our norms and beliefs before the body of our kin is brought home and properly buried,” said Richard Ambundo, the deceased’s brother.
The rituals were carried out exactly as planned. One of the elders sipped some concoction and sprinkled the remainder on the grave, reprimanding the strange body for sneaking into the compound.
“You strayed into this home, but we set you free and want to let you go in peace,” one of the elders told the exhumed body.
Elders advised that a sheep be slaughtered to cleanse the home and the family left behind.
One of the elders, Paul Etemesi, said they prepared a special concoction that their ancestors used in cleansing rituals.“We did everything we could to protect ourselves, our family, and our home,” Etemesi said. “A banana stem was planted in the grave as per our traditions.”