Lang'ata cemetery workers block graveyards over delayed salaries

A section of Lang'ata cemetery in Nairobi.[Elvis Ogina.Standard]

The Lang’ata cemetery was on Wednesday a no go zone as police engaged striking employees in running battles.

For about four hours’ several families that had arrived at the cemetery to bury their loved ones were forced to wait until the police managed to quell the rowdy staff.

The police were forced to use teargas to disperse the workers so as to allow those burying the loved ones to gain access to the graveyards.

The County employees tasked with clearing bushes and keeping the cemetery neat had downed their tools claiming that they had not received their salaries for about four months.

For this reason,  they resorted to block the all the cemetery entrances from the morning hours.

“We have gone without salaries since June yet some of us have heavy responsibilities like paying school fees and feeding our children,” Anne Njeri one of one of the workers, stated.

“In fact I have not paid rent for all those months yet the County has been taking us in circles, we appeal to Governor Sakaja to intervene instead of sending police to teargas us as we picket,” another worker added.

Nairobi County Secretary Patrick Analo however denied claims that the County instructed police to teargas the cemetery workers citing that police were there to restore peace under their provisions.

He explained that the striking workers are part of the 77 casuals who were hired by Nairobi County to assist in giving the cemetery a facelift.

“We were in the process of working on their salaries which they will get them latest next week. It is unfortunate that they downed their tools and blocked the cemetery,” Analo, who is also Chief office planning, explained.

He said it was wrong for the workers to block the cemetery since some religions require that they bury within certain times of the day.

“If police any form of the provision of the law they wanted to allow bereaved families to bury their loved ones to do it in peace,” the County Secretary added.

Chief Officer Public Health Tom Nyakaba on his part said he has already received a response from the Controllers of Budget (CoB) about the delayed salaries.

“It is not that the County does not want to pay them, I have been there myself about four times to talk to them, the government has a process that must be followed so as not to leave behind any queries,” Nyakaba explained.

The workers were recruited after Governor Sakaja directed that Langa'ta Cemetery spruced up to ensure the dead have a beautiful resting place. The City boss has deployed a team to routinely clean the colonial-era graveyard.

"I issued a directive to the environment team to clear and make the cemetery tidy. We must ensure that we provide dignity to all including the departed," read a statement from the governor's office.