In life, he kept off his family. In death, his family is keeping off him, unapologetically. Two years since Clement Karimi died, his body continues to lie in Consolata Mathari Hospital mortuary in Nyeri County, and no one is willing to bury it.
Karimi’s extended family in Lusoi village, Kieni, believes he had his fair share of land, which he sold and squandered the proceeds.
His family says he frequented top entertainment spots between Nyeri, Nanyuki and Meru after selling land inherited from his father.
Now his seven siblings do not even want to incur expenses to bury him in a public cemetery, or individually provide a final resting place. The hospital has been left to decide what to do with the body.
Beatrice Ngima, 53, and sister to Karimi, said he had eight acres, which he sold before leaving without a word. Ms Ngima said even in death, Karimi has no right to a resting place. “Our father had directed that he (Karimi) should not get an inch of the remaining land. He had sold his land and misused the money,” she said.
The family is also aggrieved by Karimi’s move to sell land to non-relatives. “Our father had advised him not to sell the land to people outside our clan… We consider him a government’s child. It should bury him,” Ngima said.
Ann Wahito, 50, another Karimi sibling, said the family members had failed to agree on the way forward and that efforts by local administration to bring them together had spectacularly failed, accelerating the stalemate.
“We can never seem to agree that our brother should be buried at our inherited land. I’m a widow who does not have the financial flexibility to bury him, and we think the government should take up the matter and bury him,” she said, adding: “Our brother was so detached from us.”
The news about Karimi’s death at 69 has become the talk of Lusoi village since many, including the local government administration, has not witnessed what is happening.
Tired of a body taking up precious space and incurring preservation costs, the hospital, in conjunction with the administration, has tried to convince the family to bury Karimi, all in vain.
The family is not even perturbed by a demand letter dated July 7, 2021, from the hospital. “The hospital hereby demands that you collect the body for burial within seven days from the date of this letter, failure to which legal action shall be instituted against you individually and collectively,” the letter signed by Bernard Muriithi, Chief Executive Officer of Consolata Hospital, Mathari, read.
Three months after the letter, the family has not approached the hospital for a settlement.
Karimi was a lucky son, who in the 1970s, had been allocated his acres at the Lusoi settlement scheme, near his father’s similar holding. But he soon got into bad ways despite sound advice from his father. Bit by bit, he sold off his land, squandering the proceeds with a woman, who the family only remembers was from Meru. He exhausted his land in 2011 before being employed as a shamba boy in Nanyuki, where he worked till he had no physical strength. He then started wasting away in local shopping centres.
When he was too sick in 2019, a former employer at one of the many shambas he had worked that took him to Consolata Hospital and had him admitted and later died.
As at July, when the hospital wrote the family a letter, the mortuary bill stood at Sh543,892.
Lusoi Assistant Chief Paul Githae said as a result of the stalemate, the siblings have not been able to initiate the succession process on their father’s land. He said the siblings had been pushing him to omit the deceased’s name on the mandatory introductory letter to kick start the process. “The price that comes with disowning one of their own is that they don’t have the death certificate, which is a requirement in the succession procedure. They have been hostile,” the Assistant chief said.
Githae said every time the family members visited his office, they sought help on subdivision of land and not Karimi’s burial. He said the hospital had hinted to him that it was willing to let the family bury him, but they declined the offer.
But whose responsibility is it to have the body buried?
Bishop Stephen Maina of the Full-Time Winners Gospel said while the Bible demands that people take care of the sick, the weak and the disadvantaged, it is silent on the dead, since “God is for the living and not for the dead”.
The Bishop said Karimi should be the state’s burden. “We can’t fault his siblings for failing to bury their kin given that he squandered the proceeds of what was rightfully his,” he said.
Kikuyu Council of Elders chairperson Wachira Kiago said it was the prerogative of the closest family members and the clan to bury him and that failure to do so would be against the Gikuyu traditions.
He said a family could not disown their blood (Thakame nditeagwo) as that would antagonise family structure with long-term repercussions.
But lawyer Ndegwa Mbui said the hospital, in conjunction with the Public Health Department, could seek court orders to dispose of the body to prevent accrual of expenses.
Citing Public Health Act Cap 242 (Public Health Mortuaries Rules,1991), Mr Mbui said the hospital was justified to dispose of the body after duly notifying the family and giving them 10 days’ grace period. “But the implications of this provision is that the siblings will never be able to proceed with the succession cause because the hospital will not give them the death certificate,” the lawyer said.