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Elders forbid wailing as two bodies of boat accident victims found

By Isaiah Gwengi | June 28th 2016
Fishermen at Liunda beach in Lake Victoria search for the bodies of artistes who drowned at the weekend. (Photo: Collins Oduor/Standard)

Two bodies were retrieved from Lake Victoria Monday following a boat accident in which 10 music band members drowned on Saturday.

The two bodies will however stay on the shore of the lake until the remaining eight bodies are found, in line with local traditions.

Mourning has also been banned temporarily over fears that it may herald bad luck and hamper the process of retrieving the other bodies.

A cloud of sadness hung over the beach as the bodies of Boyieta Ohangla band members, whose lives were abruptly snuffed out by tidal waves on Lake Victoria, were retrieved as a search operation began Monday.

Bereaved family members fought off tears as they viewed the bodies.

According to 70-year-old Odida Buoga, the Bondo sub-county Luo Council of Elders chairman, no one is allowed to cry before all the bodies are retrieved.

"It is our tradition that when one dies in the lake, his or her family members camp at the spot until the body is retrieved. This takes between three days and one week depending on whether the one who drowned was in good terms with the family," Mzeee Buoga told The Standard.

He explained that people were not allowed to wail for fear of "barring the remaining bodies from being found".

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He says: "In case one bumps into a body in the lake or on the shore, traditions require that you look for a rope and tie it on the shore before informing members of the family. If one fails to do so, this might haunt him or her forever, unless some rituals are performed."

The elder added that anybody who finds a body is required to accompany the bereaved family to their home where a goat or a chicken is given for cleansing.

"This goat or chicken is not supposed to be reared. Once given, you are supposed to slaughter and eat it in order to appease the spirits," he said.

He said the owner of a boat that capsizes is also required to take a piece of the boat for cleansing. If this is not done, then the boat will be seen as a bad omen and nobody is allowed to use it.

As a way of mourning with the families, fishermen in the area where a tragedy occurred are not supposed to go fishing. Instead, they should use their boats to search for the bodies.

Police were not allowed to take the bodies to the mortuary and were instructed to wait until all the bodies are retrieved.

The search operation for the nine bodies began Monday morning, with more than five boats scouring the lake.

The first body of a man was retrieved at around 9am. Three hours later, another body of a woman identified as Lavender Atieno was retrieved.

Lavender's father Francis Wanga said her first-born daughter was to join polytechnic this week to pursue a course in tailoring.

"The news of my daughter's death was a great shock to my family. I was planning to take her to polytechnic but that dream has since vanished. She has left behind a nine-month-old child," Mr Wanga said.

He said his daughter sat her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams in 2014 before she got pregnant.

He added: "Even though it's a relief for our family that her body has been found, we still don't know how long it will take for the other bodies to be found so that we bury her."

Twenty-year-old Timothy Otieno aka Boyieta, who survived the tragedy, said the death of his band members was a big blow to his music career.

Boyieta Ohangla band had 22 members who were all based in Bondo town.

"We had performed in Liunda on Friday night and my band members left for Ndeda island at around 9am. I was left behind sleeping in one of the guest houses before the sad news came. It is indeed sad and shocking but I thank God for saving us," said the 'Min baby' hit maker.

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