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Double blow to family as man’s body missing

RIFT VALLEY
By Benard Lusigi | July 21st 2021

Florence Asang’asa, the widow of Lucas Abdala whose body and that of another relative were exhumed following a land tussle. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

When his family buried him in 2018, they thought they had brought to closure all the misfortunes that surrounded Lukas Abdala, a driver who died alongside 56 others in a road accident.

The Homeboyz bus was involved in an accident at Fort Ternan, Kericho County.

Abdala’s body was then buried at his home in Mago village, Hamis Constituency in Vihiga County, but was exhumed on July 11 by police and taken to an unknown place following a land dispute.

“A contingent of heavily armed police came brandishing a court order and exhumed Abdala’s body and that of another family member, claiming they were buried on a disputed land,” said Florence Asang’asa, Abdala’s widow.

She claimed the officers scared everyone off and did not respond to questions as to where they were taking the bodies.

Asang’asa went on: “I was not there on the said day, but a relative alerted me on the happenings. I hear people say the bodies were taken to Mbale morgue, but family members have not been able to locate them at the facility.”

Serem Officer Commanding Station Winnie Chepkosgei, who acknowledged supervising the exhumation, was reluctant to discuss the issue and referred The Standard to Hamisi Police Commander Austin Obonyo, who in turn directed us to his deputy Joseph Katuko, claiming he was new at the station.

“The bodies were taken to Mbale mortuary and by extension in such cases bodies can be buried at any government burial facility,” said Katuko.

Florence Asang’asa, the widow of Lucas Abdala, at the site where his body and that of another relative were exhumed. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

Abdala’s family, however, take the words of the police with a pinch of salt. “If they are talking of the morgue, they have not given us any notification to that effect. If they are talking of the Mbale cemetery, why did they not call even one of the family members to witness the reburial,” posed Asang’asa.

She wonders why the officers did not talk to them in order to find an alternative site.

“My husband has never known peace even in death. They exhumed the body without observing our traditions and now the officers cannot tell whether the body was buried or is being preserved somewhere,” the widow lamented.

Johnson Chogo, Abdala’s cousin, said all the family wants is to have the bodies of their loved ones. “An investor applied for the exhumation of the bodies, erected a structure on the land and fenced it round with barbed wire,” said Chogo.

Chogo said Abdala was a responsible man who deserved respect. 

“It is against Tiriki culture to mistreat the dead like they did. Our ancestors could be unhappy with us and a disaster may befall the perpetrators of the inhuman act,” he stated.

Chogo said before Abdala met his death, he was the one handling the court matter involving the disputed land and his death could have affected the outcome.

The family has been unable to locate the bodies of their loved ones. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

However, according to Charles Kavuludi, an elder, the matter is now beyond the family members because they cannot set eyes twice on someone who was already buried.

“It does not happen that way and if it happens then some cleansing rituals must be done and that will mean family members will have to move far away not to face the consequences of the spirits from the dead and ancestors,” argued Kavuludi.

The 87-year-old said such rituals usually happen in the absence of family members who will be informed later that their loved ones were buried again. The case over the disputed land was filed by Patrick Malongo, who claimed to have bought the piece of land from one Enisi Khavere in 2015. Details obtained by The Standard from Court of Appeal documents showed Malongo was the rightful owner of the plot.

Khavere died in 2017 and was buried in Nandi, according to relatives. 

Former Kisumu Court of Appeal Judge William Ouko ruled in favour of Malongo on April 23 and directed that Abdala’s relatives, servants, or agents vacate the land within 90 days since they were in unlawful occupation of it.

The family said Abdala was the one who understood everything about the court matter and that his death could have sealed the family’s fate.

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