News / Africa

Kenya’s Langata Cemetery Still Taking Nairobi’s Dead

View of the temporary section of Nairobi's Langata Cemetery, October 4, 2012. (Jill Craig / VOA)
View of the temporary section of Nairobi's Langata Cemetery, October 4, 2012. (Jill Craig / VOA)
Jill Craig
Nairobi’s Langata cemetery has been full for several years, but bodies continue to arrive every day for burial. Sometimes it is not even possible to bury them the requisite six feet under, but families - especially the poor - have limited options.
 
In 2010, scandal unfolded in Nairobi as residents learned that the city council is alleged to have paid about $3.6 million for roughly 48.56 hectares of land to use as an alternate cemetery location. Located on the outskirts of the city, the land was worth about 10 percent of this amount and did not have a title deed.

Senior government officers, including the mayor, were implicated in overvaluing the land and several officials were suspended from their positions. The land at the center of this controversy was deemed too rocky to be suitable for a cemetery, but no alternate location was procured, so residents continue to bury their loved ones in the already full Langata cemetery.

Michael Mutugi is a supervisor at Langata, where he instructs the bereaved where they can bury their loved ones and helps to dig the graves. He has been working here for 30 years. He claims the cemetery has been full since 2008.

He said anytime people come to the cemetery with new bodies they want to bury, "[T]hey go around, they look where there is space, they just dig and bury, they are given that space." That is how they are surviving right now, Mutugi said.

Many Nairobians would prefer to bury their loved ones in their home villages up-country, but the high costs of transport and other funeral expenses are simply out-of-reach.

Langata cemetery is divided between a “permanent” and “temporary” section. Plots in the permanent section range from about $147 for a baby to $300 for an adult and can be “cemented in” to thwart grave robbers. But this amount is also too high for many people to afford.

So a large number of Nairobi’s poor choose to bury their family members in a temporary grave, which can cost up to $82. Graves here are flattened every five years, maybe less, to make room for more bodies. No records are kept in the temporary section and families are not allowed to visit after the burial.

It is what Mutugi called the “bury and go” option that so many Nairobi residents are forced to choose, because of economic constraints.

And, because most people know the cemetery is full, Mutugi said relatives often get upset when they think their loved one is being buried on top of someone else.

He said a major challenge is "[S]ometimes there is space that is so stony, sometimes we dig and it has stones, and people who have come to bury their loved ones, they refuse that space because they feel like it is another grave."  He said it can be a problem and he does not have an alternative.

Brian Kirui said this situation occurred when he accompanied his friend to Langata to bury his seven year-old daughter in 2009.

“We went there and they had paid, organized for someone to dig the grave but when we went there to assess, before we brought the body, we discovered the grave was too shallow," said Kirui. "It was too shallow, so we said, ‘Hey, the grave is not supposed to be like this, it should go deeper.’ And those guys said, ‘now, the things we found here, we can not go farther.’ So at the end of the day, maybe they found a body or anything. But now that’s something, the few people who have gone there, you just keep it secret because now you do not want to add stress to the family again like this.”

Kirui said that most people just deal with the circumstances of Langata cemetery, because of a lack of viable alternatives. "But now we do not have a choice," he said. "You will complain to who?  So, you just go there, do whatever has taken you there and that is it.”

Tens of thousands of bodies have been buried in Langata cemetery since it first opened in 1958.

As Nairobi’s population continues to increase from an estimated three million people today, it will only put more strain on the already-bulging cemetery.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid