Horror as residents bury their dead along footpaths
By - KARANJA NJOROGE
| April 15th 2013
By Karanja Njoroge
Nakuru,Kenya: Despite the defunct local authority declaring the cemetery full, residents continue to look for graves
An eerie silence hangs at the Nakuru North Cemetery as crosses and mounds of earth sprout up fast signifying a looming crisis as there is virtually no space left to bury the dead.
Locals fear shortage of burial space in the town has reached a crisis point. People are now forced to bury their loved ones along foot paths for lack of options.
“We have no option. It has been an issue but it seems because the dead do not complain, those responsible for the mess continue to ignore the wishes of bereaved families that their loved ones get decent resting places,” said Grace Njeri who we found scouting for burial space.
She added: “It is only logical for the couny government to get a new burial site as soon as possible as the place is becoming a health hazard.”
To compound the situation, the town’s only other such facility, the Nakuru South Cemetery, which borders Nakuru National Park is also almost full.
A portion of the South Cemetery was allocated to private developers who constructed residential houses round the graveyard.
Council workers tasked with digging graves at the Nakuru North Cemetery have to exercise care to avoid exhuming bodies buried earlier.
The cemetery was set up in 1918 for World War victims and with thousands of bodies having been buried it may be unable to accommodate the next earthling. Graves are now being recycled to create space for more.
Nakuru Business Association former chairman Boniface Muhia expressed concern over the state of the cemetery. “The grave diggers are abusing the rights of the dead as we all know the cemetery was closed more than two years ago,” complained Muhia.
The grave issue was a major worry for top officers at the defunct Municipal Council of Nakuru compounded by poor planning and land grabbing at the Local Authority. In a desperate attempt to discourage residents from using the Nakuru North Cemetery, the council hiked burial charges from Sh5,000 to Sh10,000 and now to Sh20,000 per burial space.
Despite the exorbitant charges, the cemetery which is adjacent to the Nakuru Provincial General Hospital, still remains a preferred resting place for the flamingo town’s well to do.
“The price of a grave in Molo, Naivasha and Subukia is only Sh500 which is fair since cemeteries are supposed to be a service but the Sh 20,000 charged by the former Municipal Council of Nakuru for a grave is a price out of the market,” a resident Richard Mbugua says.
Thought cited two years ago by UN Habitat as one of the fastest growing towns’ in East Africa, Nakuru leaves a lot to be desired on how it handles it dead. Last year, the council came under enormous pressure to find alternative land for public cemetery which forced it to place an advertisement in the local dailies asking for land in the oustkirts of the town.
Efforts by the council to obtain land in the neighbouring areas were fruitless as locals were not willing to sell their land for burial owing to cultural beliefs.
At the time, Town Clerk Wilson Maroa said negotiations were ongoing between the council and the Ministry of Local Government to get more funds for the cemetery land.
“We have set aside Sh25 million which is not enough. We need about Sh50 million,” Maroa told the Press.
In 2009, the then Nakuru Mayor David Gikaria who is the current Nakuru Town East MP said they had decided to officially close the cemetery as people were burying their relatives along footpaths.
“The cemetery is filled up and people are now taking up even foot paths,” he said, though burials continue at the cemetery to date. Residents are now calling on the new county government to prioritise securing land for a cemetery and end the burial crisis in the town.
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