Kisumu Governor Anyang' Ny'ong'o allayed fears that cemeteries that have stood near the shores of Lake Victoria for decades would be turned into a public park.
In a newspaper advert last month, City Manager Doris Ombara had called for written memoranda as part of public participation in as is required by the law.
The plan includes subdividing the city into four main zones: Urban Core, Urban Renewal and Regeneration, Eastern Extension and Northern Extension.
To open the lakefront, Muslim, Ismailia and Hindu cemeteries, which sit next to the shore bordering Nyanza Golf Club, were earmarked for relocation.
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But in submissions that ended last week, a number of leaders, residents, civil society and religious organisations rejected the proposal.
Kisumu Muslim Association, the Ismaili, Sikh and Hindu communities all objected to relocation of the cemeteries, arguing they are not only burial sites but also prayer areas.
The Muslims submitted that any attempt to relocate the cemeteries would be a violation of the constitutional freedom of conscience and religion, insisting that it holds titles for the land.
“Article 44 of the Constitution donates to every person the right to participate in cultural life of his choice and in Article 32 which protects, among other things, the freedom of conscience and religion," submitted the Muslim association.
"Over and above the foregoing, we have title to the properties which you have proposed to convert into recreational areas and that title is protected by Article 40 of the Constitution. Clearly, the proposal to appropriate these properties and convert them into areas of recreation is both against statute law and the Constitution,” submitted the Muslims.
Nominated ward rep Aslam Khan said the cemeteries were sacred grounds and that any attempt to relocate them would not go down well with the three faiths that have buried their icons on the grounds.
“Great men and women of Kisumu who have featured and made remarkable contributions to the growth of the town and the county are buried in these cemeteries,” submitted Khan.
“As they lie buried and cannot speak for themselves, the good that they did still do and deserves recognition by proper preservation of the burial grounds to serve as a tangible lesson for generations to come,” he stated.
Responding to the concerns raised, Governor Nyong’o said the cemeteries will not be affected by the lakefront development and reorganisation of the Kisumu City’s physical and land use plans.
Nyong’o described the cemeteries as historical sites that were exempted from demolitions that would affect parts of the lakeside metropolis.
“Our brothers and sisters from the Muslim community attach a lot of spiritual, emotional and historical importance to the cemetery and we cannot interfere with it. Cities all over the world have revered historical, cultural and religious sites and the Muslim Cemetery in Kisumu is one of our historical sites,” said Nyong'o.
He hailed the submissions as a sign of healthy public participation.
“We are involving everyone on this important exercise and I call upon the people of Kisumu City to be available for validation discussions and interrogate the various policies and strategies being proposed in the plans,” he said.