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 On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid