NMS to bury 164 bodies if they remain unclaimed

Langata cemetery in Nairobi [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) has announced plans to dispose 164 unclaimed bodies.

In a notice published in newspapers yesterday, NMS said the 164 bodies lay at the City Mortuary.

Interested individuals are asked to identify and collect the bodies within seven days, failure to which NMS will seek authority to dispose.

Of those brought in between November last year and May, 13 people died from lynching in Mlolongo, Kikuyu, Parklands and Riruta. Murder accounted for 18 bodies, with only three identified.

Of the 164 bodies, 143 are male. Three are foetuses from Kiambu, Kayole and Kasarani. If unclaimed, the bodies will be buried in a mass grave.

Mortuaries regularly run public notices of disposal. Reasons for bodies’ lying in mortuaries for long include wrangles or probes that come with court orders.

Unique cases listed by NMS are fire incidents in Kasarani and Pangani, listed as arson. An investigation that would involve witnesses is expected, and as such, families would likely claim the body.

Police play a critical role in identifying fingerprints of the deceased.

A criminal investigation expert explained that a postmortem is conducted by a coroner after the family is made aware, after which they can claim the body.

A coroner is a qualified person whose duty is to investigate the cause of any death occurring due to a non-natural cause. He/she will generally not be involved where a person died from some natural illness or disease for which he was being treated.

Investigation of sudden and unexplained death takes many forms. In Kenya this has mostly been through a public inquest established under Sections 385-387 of the Criminal Procedure Code. 

In 2017, Parliament enacted the National Coroners’ Service Act, providing the framework for the investigation of reported deaths.

But implementation of the National Coroners Service Act, 2017 has been delayed by a lack of political goodwill and a legal bottleneck over which cabinet secretary should name the coroner-general and determine the terms of the Coroners’ Service.

The Act transferred the investigation of unnatural and violent deaths, including those in police custody and prison, from the police to the coroner-general, an independent office whose occupant is competitively appointed by the cabinet secretary responsible for matters relating to justice upon recommendation by the Public Service Commission.