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Thugs raid war cemetery in search of scrap metal, relics

RIFT VALLEY
By Kevin Tunoi | February 25th 2014

By Kevin Tunoi

Eldoret, Kenya: Unlike in the Biblical times, an empty grave does not imply resurrection in Uasin Gishu but is a pointer to a serious brand of crime in the area.

It means grave robbers have ignored the ‘Rest In Peace’ tag and have violated a corpse’s resting place making away with valuables.

Uasin Gishu, part of what was formerly Kenya’s White Highlands, where large-scale colonial farmers resided in huge swathes of land is dotted with graves, with the most famous being the Commonwealth War Memorial graves.

Recently, the thriving black market has seen an increase in violation of cemeteries in search for valuable relics that fetch handsome amounts of cash. Defaced tombstones greet are scattered through the once beautiful cemetery with the metallic epitaphs missing due to the also lucrative scrap metal business.

There is a popular belief that the wealth colonial farmers were buried with their worldly possession in fancy graves which has given rise to grave robbery. The Eldoret Cemetery contains five Commonwealth burials of the Second World War and one French war grave.

In Plateau area of Uasin Gishu, four suspected treasure hunters were busted by members of the public while three other managed to escape after they were found exhuming ancient graves.

The suspects had opened up a grave exposing skeletal remains and were in the process of breaking the plaster from the second grave. The bizarre afternoon incident saw the suspects beaten up by an angry mob after a woman saw them and raised alarm.

Witchcraft paraphernalia, assorted traditional herbs and a business card for a funeral home was recovered from the pockets of the suspects. The self-confessed treasure hunters confessed it was not their first time to search for buried treasure.

“We were only looking for valuables we believe the dead had been buried with since we have a lucrative market for them abroad,” one of them explained. He added that their main target in exhumations was antique padlocks, iron boxes, gold and silver ornaments that are believed to be buried with their owners.

The hunter explained that they had already made money from earlier sales of antiquities which he noted was high in demand abroad. 

 “This is a taboo in our community, we do not disturb the dead and their graves are very well respected but this is just abnormal,” said Wellington Korir, a resident.

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