Busia man buys third coffin while awaiting death

Alloys Ominangombe stands beside his coffin.

Alloys Ominangombe cuts the figure of a man at peace with himself and the world.

In 2006, Ominangombe shocked residents of Okatekok village in Teso South, Busia, when he bought himself a coffin, not because he was ailing or on the verge of death, but because he was being cautious and preparing for the inevitable. 

“I thought it wise to prepare for my funeral before I depart this world. I have witnessed people die and their families struggle to raise funds to buy coffins as well as conduct decent burials for them,” says the 88-year-old.

87-year-old man from Teso buys own coffin to be used when he dies

Ominangombe cites former Butere MP Martin Shikuku and Martin Obel who bought their coffins. Obel was the father of scientist Prof Arthur Obel who developed Kemron and Pearl Omega, drugs he claimed could cure HIV in the early 1990s.

Burial rites are elaborate and costly among communities in Western Kenya. In the period between death and burial, mourners flock to the home of the deceased, whose family bears the burden of feeding them. Cows, sheep, goats and chicken are slaughtered, driving up the costs.

Ominangombe is a father of 19 and a husband of four, but two wives have died. Among his children is a nurse in the US, a worker in Saudi Arabia, seven teachers, and seven pastors. That, however, has not reassured him of a decent sendoff.

“I do not want my children to struggle to get a coffin for me when I am gone. If they have anything to give to me, they should do it now while I am still alive,” he says 

In August 2019, the octogenarian replaced the coffin he bought 13 years earlier with a modern one. In 2021, yet another design caught his fancy, costing him Sh58,000.

The dark brown coffin has brass handles around the lower edge and a cross with the image of Jesus on the lid. The interior is decorated with white laces. 

The casket is stored in a special room at the Obekai market where the first coffin remains in a separate room. “I used the second coffin to bury a relative then bought the current one in 2021. I am not done yet because if I see another good design before I die, I will buy it,” he says.

The Teso culture, however, does not espouse this. Attempts to get comments from Ominangombe’s wives and children were politely declined.

An elder, Moses Emodo, says Ominangombe defied culture and refused to listen to elders. “I have never witnessed any person in the Teso community purchase their own coffin,” says Emodo.

But another Teso elder agrees with Ominangombe. “It was strange at first, but it makes sense now. Some children neglect parents and when death occurs, the cost becomes unbearable. Others should copy him,” says Grevas Okaron. 

Ominangombe says he will soon dig his grave and build a mausoleum.