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Kenyans spend a fortune to give loved ones befitting burials

NAIROBI
By Josphat Thiong'o | June 20th 2016
A section of Lang’ata Cemetery in Nairobi. PHOTO DAVID NJAAGA/STANDARD

Despite being declared full 20 years ago, Lang’ata Cemetery continues to attract a majority of Nairobi residents.

Many are now spending heftily to ensure they give their loved ones a befitting send off.

While many may shy away from the traditional burial grounds, it is proving cheaper for those from Nairobi to get space at the cemetery. This has led to many families reserving burial quarters to avoid the hassle that comes with burial preparations.

Adjoined to the numerous tombstones that assume a plethora of shapes and designs, are cemented slabs made from materials ranging from the best of marble to mere concrete. In certain sections, the burial quarters are fenced off and assume much more space than those next to them, giving off a feeling of affluence even in the afterlife.

Justus Lala, a caretaker at the cemetery, explains that for one to be buried there, he or she must first purchase land if they are planning on having a permanent burial ground.

“A lot of people from Nairobi and beyond Nairobi want to bury their loved ones at this cemetery and will do anything to ensure that they get burial space. In order to ensure that the graves of their loved ones are safe, they pay for the permanent graves,” Mr Lala said.

He says that contrary to public perception, there is no section reserved for the affluent and asserts that any family can access the permanent graves once they pay the required amount.

“It is not like the old days when people would be discriminated on the basis of being rich or poor in order to get buried. Once you pay for the permanent grave, you are awarded space,” he said.

TEMPORARY GRAVE

City Mortuary Assistant Chief Superintendent Patrick Ndegwa, however, says there is a process to be followed before one is buried at the cemetery. He confirms that for Nairobi residents, anyone burying an adult will have to part with Sh30,000 for a permanent grave, Sh4,000 for a child below 18 years and Sh2,000 for an infant. Those from outside Nairobi pay Sh40,000.

“Once the payment is made, one is issued with a certificate of burial and moving the body by the city mortuary allowing for the loved one to be buried at Lang’ata. Once the papers are presented to the caretaker at the cemetery, everything is taken care of including digging of the grave and all you have to do is show up for the burial,” says Ndegwa.

He adds that a temporary grave costs Sh7,000 and all that is provided is a burial place without a slab. Ndegwa says that the cemetery is divided in two sections — the Muslim and Christian sections.

Ndegwa explains that a temporary grave is one that will be done away with after a few years in order to pave way for more burial ground. He says that after approximately two to three years, the soil is levelled in order to accommodate the growing number of the departed.

There are approximately three to four burials in a day at Lang’ata cemetery. Nairobi Health Executive Bernard Muia confirms that Lang’ata cemetery is full but this doesn’t deter people from outside Nairobi flocking the burial site to put their loved ones to rest.

This, he says, necessitated the county to identify new burial grounds and renovate the city Mortuary at Sh1 billion. In the proposed Sh35 billion budget, money was spared by the Budget and Appropriations Committee to oversee the purchase of new cemetery land. The city mortuary accommodates 250 bodies but this will increase to 600 once it is renovated.

“The purchase of new cemetery land is a joint venture by the county government and the national government. Nairobi’s population has grown rapidly over the years and that is why we need to look for more burial space,” said Muia.

The land sought is 120 acres at a price of Sh221 million.

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