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No peace even for the dead as contractor destroys graves

NYANZA
By Harold Odhiambo and Anne Atieno | November 14th 2019

A relative of the deceased shows other villagers the visible coffin bearing the body of his kin who was buried six years ago at Got Rateng' village in Kabondo Kasipul on November 12, 2019, after a Chinese company constructing roads interfered with graves at a homestead when harvesting murram. Three graves have been affected. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

A Chinese contractor tarmacking part of the Migori-Kisii-Ahero highway has destroyed four graves in a family's compound, reopening old wounds.

This is after one of their kin allegedly sold part of their family land to the contractor, who has started excavating large swathes of the parcel, including graves, to harvest gravel.

Yesterday, members of the family were still struggling to come to terms with the development that has left their deceased parents' home in Got Rateng village, Kabondo-Kasipul Constituency, with gaping holes and open graves.

They, however, denied selling their parcel to the contractor and claimed that their attempts to compel him to produce signed agreements have hit a dead end.

They claimed the person who sold the land to the contractor did not have a title deed for the parcel and was not entitled to sell the family land.

When The Standard visited the home yesterday, an uncle of one of the remaining daughters of the homestead was sobbing next to the grave of his brother's wife, which lay open, exposing the coffin.

William Ochieng claimed he only learnt that the home had been destroyed yesterday after being informed by a neighbour.

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A few metres from where he stood, gaping holes and huge heaps of gravel ready for collection is what remained of their backyard and their family forest.

“At first I thought the excavators were developing a parcel next to our home. I was shocked when I learnt that they had invaded our farm and were in the process of turning it into a quarry,” said Mr Ochieng.

He claimed the contractor had been on the site for the last seven days and was almost bringing down his late brother’s house before they learnt of the activities taking place at their homestead.

“It is heartbreaking for us to see the coffin of our kin whom we buried several years ago in the open. They have reopened the wounds and they must be brought to book,” said Ochieng.

Judith Anyango, a daughter of the deceased, said she only learnt about the destruction of their homestead through a friend.

They have not been staying at the home since their mother died in 2013 and have only been visiting occasionally.

Yesterday, however, Ms Anyango said the contractor had destroyed their homestead and even blocked access to a borehole they have always relied on for water.

“We are still shocked by what has happened and we want them to restore what they have destroyed,” said Anyango.

The family also claimed that the company failed to do an environmental impact assessment, a sentiment shared by their neighbours who also claimed that the blasting of stones at the homestead has had negative effects on them.

Rachuonyo East Deputy County Commissioner Jack Oruo, who led a team of officers to the homestead yesterday, told The Standard that they have started arbitration between the family and the Chinese contractor.

Mr Oruo claimed there was a misunderstanding after the contractor excavated the wrong parcel of land.

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