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Death took my son and State stole my chance to bury him

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Closure. That’s what Ms Esther Cheluget, 56, wants the most from life.

It pains her to imagine that her son, Jeremiah Koskey, may have died in a road accident, been killed by a gang or drowned in a river but she doesn’t know for sure.

Even more painful is the thought of his body was buried in a mass and she wasn’t even there. No son.

No body. No explanation. To her, it almost seems like he was dumped into the ground like garbage.

It is now seven years since the resident of Ingoboor in Nakuru County saw her son. He had visited her at home in Chepseon on a Thursday, stayed for the weekend and left on Sunday evening for Nakuru town, where he worked.

‘Seven-year search’

“He always used a neighbour’s phone to call me whenever he wanted to talk. When he did not call that Sunday, I did not sense anything was wrong. After a week, I went to my neighbour’s house to ask if I could speak with him.

I loaded her phone with Sh50 airtime and tried to call him but his phone was off,” Ms Cheluget said, adding that she immediately sensed that something was amiss.

It was unusual for her son to go two days without talking to her. She asked a relative for help in tracing him.

“That marked the beginning of a seven-year search for my son. We went to hospitals and morgues in Kericho and Nakuru counties in vain. We went to Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret and Kitale. One of his brothers even quit employment to dedicate his days to searching for him,’ Ms Cheluget added.

That brother was Henry Koskey, who said he wanted to help his mother in the painstaking search.

“It has been the most difficult seven years of my life. I have seen countless bodies, some badly damaged. It is difficult,” he said.

A relative called in April last year to show him a list published in the papers with a name similar to his brother’s. It was among the 96 that were scheduled for disposal in Nairobi. But that newspaper was three years old. The family had no chance of ascertaining the body’s identification as it had long been buried in a mass grave.

“It wouldn’t be a good idea to exhume a whole mass grave four years on,” he says, adding that he has always blamed himself, wishing he had put in a little more effort in the search.

This is the pain thousands of families whose missing kin were buried in mass graves feel. It exposes the tragedy that befalls the relatives of these missing persons, when the country has a robust identification database under the Department of Immigration Services in the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government.

City Mortuary Senior Funeral Superintendent David Wanjohi says that, when bodies overstay in a morgue, the institution notifies the county chief officer for health who gives a green light for a list to be published in the newspapers notifying the public that the corpses would be disposed in a week.

“From there, we obtain a court order to allow us to bury them in mass graves. When bodies are unidentified, we also have to seek court orders allowing us to do dispose the bodies,” Dr Wanjohi said.

Yet, it only takes a little effort and a working system to identify bodies that may have been retrieved with no proper identification documents.

Crime scenes

At crime scenes, police have been dusting surfaces for fingerprints, which they use to identify criminals. This has for ages been used in legal proceedings.

“This same forensic science should be used to recovery identify bodies,” security analyst Kennedy Kibet says.

Kenya lacks a standard database on missing persons and relatives who report their kin as missing (someone is legally declared missing after 48 hours of last contact) may only present photographs rather than medical records, fingerprints or dental records.

This makes it difficult for investigators to match identities, especially where bodies have been dismembered or are decomposing.

When accidents happen or a body is found without identification documents, the law provides that the police should collect and take it to the mortuary. There, the police are required to take fingerprints and start the process of forensic identification.

Once an adult’s identification details have been retrieved from the database, the police are supposed to work with the provincial administration to trace the home of the deceased based on the information they gave while registering for their IDs. The police passes the information on to the local administrator who then informs the dead person’s family. This makes it possible for the family to trace and collect the body.

Chief Government Pathologist Johansen Oduor says that the identification of bodies would be easier if the police, the National Registration Bureau and the holding facilities cooperated.

He decries the “worrying lethargy and lack of coordination” among governmental departments, the hospitals and the law enforcement agencies.

National database

“We have tried this and it worked. But the challenge is that there are no police officers attached to the National Registration Bureau to follow up with the chiefs to trace the families,’ Dr Oduor says.

The identification of people whose details are captured in the national database is very possible, Dr Oduor says, only that there is laziness on the part of the authorities who should be doing that job.

In turn, the mortuaries are flooded with bodies beyond their capacities, forcing them to dispose of them in mass graves after seeking court orders and agonising hundreds of families who may be searching for their missing kin.

A police officer attached to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) admits that there is laxity on their part because they are overworked.

Most of the officers assigned to the cases do not bother to follow up on the families.

“There is no way to ensure that an officer takes responsibility.

Whether you trace the family or not, nothing will be done to you. Why leave important cases to queue at the NRB looking for someone’s identity, yet you are not even sure the county commissioners will follow up on it?’ he posed. Rule 3(a) of Legal Notice No. 205 of the Public Health Act Cap 242 of 1991 prohibits families from keeping a body in a public mortuary for more than 10 days.

The law permits mortuaries to dispose of bodies after 21 days after getting orders from a court and giving a 14-day public notice.

Last year, over 1,250 unclaimed bodies were buried countrywide.

At the Mbagathi County Hospital mortuary alone, 97 bodies (56 male and 41 female) were buried.

Storage capacity

Data from the City Mortuary shows that it received 4,115 bodies in 2016, 4,025 in 2017 and 2,016 in 2018. The Nation could not find the number received last year.

The Nakuru County Health Department recently moved to court seeking to bury 20 unclaimed bodies that had been lying at the Nakuru Level Six Hospital mortuary for three months.

The Naivasha County Referal Hospital disposed of 26 bodies.

The mortuary can only hold 12 bodies at a time. In Isiolo, the Public Health Department disposed of 19 unclaimed bodies at the referral hospital’s mortuary which has storage capacity for only 10.

Legally, institutions of medical schools and research institutions like the University of Nairobi, with permission from the Minister for Health, are permitted by the Anatomy Act Cap 249 to procure unclaimed bodies for studies.

By Daily Nation


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Lifestyle

Man’s burial inside his house baffles Kirinyaga residents

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Residents of Mucagara Village in Kirinyaga County were on Wednesday evening treated to a rare funeral after a man was buried inside his house.

They watched in astonishment as the coffin containing the remains of the 65-year-old retired coffee factory manager, Simon Muriithi Mwaniki, was lowered into the grave that had been dug in the living room.

Some whispered to each other during the dramatic send-off which left many in awe.

According to the man’s relative, prior to his death, he had expressed his wish to be buried in the house.

Emotions ran high as the funeral ceremony went on in the village in Gichugu Constituency.

“We had to act according to his wishes to avoid a curse and being haunted by his spirits,” said Mr James Njuki, the man’s eldest son.

Mwaniki was hurriedly buried in a brief ceremony conducted by an African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa priest, Jackson Muchiri.

Committed suicide

When Mwaniki committed suicide, no one mourned his death as he had asked family members not to do so when he was alive.

“Before he took his life he had told us that there should be no mourning when he dies. Therefore, we ensured that we never gathered at any time within the homestead to mourn him,” added Mr Njuki.

Mr Njuki recalled how on November 18 they found their father dangling from the roof of his house with a rope around his neck.

It was then that the matter was reported to the local police officers who drove to the scene and took the body to Kibugi Funeral Home.

His children suspected that their father took his life due to the depression he suffered after his wife, Juliana Muthoni, died.

“My father started drinking heavily after his wife died. He loved my mother so much and we think he was so much affected by her death and became depressed,” said Mr Njuki.

Rev Muchiri described the funeral as unique.

“For the 38 years that I have been conducting funerals, this is the first time to bury someone inside a house,” he said.

The residents said they were taken aback when they arrived at the homestead and saw the grave inside Mwaniki’s house.

“We were baffled. We have never witnessed such a funeral in this village. This is a funeral of its own kind which shocked all of us,” Mr Eliud Muriithi said.

by nation.africa


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Ruth Matete seeks help as she marks first wedding anniversary minus hubby

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Ms Ruth Matete and her husband MrJohn Apewajoye
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Gospel singer Ruth Matete penned a moving message to her newborn daughter as she marked her first wedding anniversary but without her husband Beloved John Apewajoye who died this year.

 The Tusker Project Fame 5 winner welcomed her bundle of joy in October, seven months after the tragic death of her husband.

In a lengthy Instagram post, in which she also attached a photo of her daughter, Reyna Toluwa’s feet, Matete prayed that her daughter would grow up to serve the Lord.

“Reyna Toluwa my princess. My love. Am not a poet, but the words I write here, are from my heart. I pray for you on this special day. That you will grow to serve the Lord. You will spread the good news of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” Matete wrote.

She also declared that Reyna’s feet will carry the good news.

“As the Bible says; ‘And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?’ As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ I declare today, that your feet are beautiful. Not just because they look like your father’s, but also because they will bring good news as the word of God declares,” she added.

 Matete remembered the vows she made on her wedding day, ‘till death do us part’ but she emotionally noted that death took her beloved husband earlier than expected.

“A day like this a year ago, your late father and I walked down the isle. Yes, we didPromised to be together till death do us part. But death came earlier than we expected.  I miss him so much. But am blessed to have you as a gift that he left me with. I don’t even understand how I’ve come this far. It can only be God,” she posted.

Even though it was one of those difficulty days in her life, Matete promised her daughter she would be fine eventually.

“Today may not be such an easy day for mummy. But I promise you, I’ll be fine. I have seen God to be the father to the fatherless and husband to the widow as He has promised in His word. Today won’t be an exception. I know He will help us even today,”  Matete said in the post.

 She ended her emotional message by asking for monetary support as she could not yet manage to resume work after a troublesome pregnancy.

“Friends, our till number remains the same, incase you wish to support us.5495849. Whatever you can, will go a mighty long way as am still not able to work. God bless you friends and please keep us in your prayers,” she added.

By NN


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World’s most-traveled man Fred Finn says Kenya is the safest place to visit during the pandemic

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Diani beach in Kwale County has played host to the world’s most traveled man, Fred Finn.

Finn has traveled to more than 150 countries at the age of 75 and holds the current Guinness Book World Records.

Finn, who is in the country until Monday, November 30 said Kenya is safe for holiday destinations.

He however noted that his visit at the moment is not for leisure, but to send a message that the country is safe amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

He says he has observed that Kenyans are following the protocols and guidelines than any other country he has traveled to during the pandemic.

“I did not come here on holiday, that is why my wife is not with me. I came because whenever Kenya has a little crisis I come and say Kenya is safe” he said

He said, during a pandemic, Kenya is the safest place to go on holiday.

Finn is scheduled to have his vaccine in December.

Tourism players say Finn’s visit to Kenya gives confidence to the international market that the country is an ideal destination.

“When you get an endorsement from the eyes of a traveler that is likely to carry the right persuasion to the potential travelers” said Kioko Musyoki, Leopard Beach General Manager.


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