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SHOULD dead Kenyans be burned to cut high funeral costs, Njonjo style?

CREMATION is gaining traction in Kenya as a way of disposing bodies of the dead. On February 4, 2021, Sheria Musyoka, son to popular Ukambani singer Musyoka Wamaiyu was killed in a multiple-car crash while jogging in San Francisco, California, USA. 

The late Sheria Musyoka pose for a photo with his wife Hannah Ege. He was cremated after his death in US. Photo/FILE

By cremation, the body of the dead is burned by subjecting it to intense heat. The special furnace designed for this purpose us called a cremation chamber or a retort.

The death of the 26-year-old father of one in the United States shone spotlight on cremation in the country since his body was never flown back home in Maai village of Mwingi Central Sub County, Kitui County for burial.

Only the ashes of his remains were sent back home.

He is survived by his wife Hannah Ege and their three-year-old son, Theo.

In 2012, a group of Kenyans came up with an ambitious plan to popularize cremation as a cost-effective was of disposing off the dead among Kenyan communities.

The late Nairobi hotelier Haroun Nyamongo Omari formed the Cremation Society of Kenya. Other officials were Mr Daniel Njoroge who served as secretary and businesswoman Ms Margaret Ndabi, the treasurer.

Families and friends of the bereaved spend a lot of money to bury their own so cremation was touted as a way to cut related expenses such as transportation, cooking for and entertainment of the guests.

Cemeteries in many of urban areas are getting filled up with graves as witnessed in Nairobi, Kisumu, Nakuru and Karatina.

Mr Njoroge said that transporting the bodies of the deceased from urban areas to rural homes to be interred was both emotionally and socially draining. It was also an economic nightmare due to the huge financial cost involved.

Social burden

“Socially, cremation reduces the social burden on the bereaved families by ensuring faster disposal of dead relatives while it is economically feasible because it is cheap and affordable. It is also environmentally friendly as it minimizes the use of harmful chemicals that preserve dead bodies,” said Njoroge.

He added that there was absolutely nothing queer about cremation in Kenya considering that a number of   prominent personalities including environmentalist Wangari Mathai, former Cabinet Minister Peter Okondo and Anglican prelate Mannases Kuria were criminated.

Njoroge said that cremation was fast gaining international acceptance with up to 98 percent of the dead in Japan being cremated, while in UK it was 56 percent and 60 percent in Canada. He said the cremation societies have been formed in many countries to encourage cheap disposal of the dead.

He noted that cremation was quicker, thus cutting down the period of gatherings for mourning and reducing the cost of feeding the mourners.

“Cremation is cheaper. It brings social harmony and it is environmentally friendly as it will cut down on use of wood that makes the coffins and also does away with use of chemicals that are used to preserve the body as people engage in prolonged mourning. Some of these chemicals are harmful to the atmosphere,” he said.

He further said that whereas some countries have increasingly been embracing cremation, Kenyans have not yet embraced it in any significant level.  He added that persons who opt for cremation are seen as odd and their choice to be cremated is not accepted by their relatives and friends.

The Cremation Society of Kenya, he said, will advocate and sensitize cremation to be generally acceptable to Kenyans and remove the stigma that is associated with it. “The society will popularize cremation so that many Kenyans opt for it and get their relatives and friends accept their choice to be cremated,” he said.

“The society will advocate for passing of laws that will accommodate and facilitate cremation to make it cheaper and easily acceptable to Kenyans," he said.

The list of prominent Kenyans who were cremated in growing by the day. Some of the notable figures cremated were:

a)       Former Attorney General Charles Njonjo

b)      Former Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore

c)       Environmentalist Prof Wangari Maathai

d)      John Macharia-son of SK Macharia who owns Royal Media Services

e)       The late Kibra MP Ken Okoth

f)       Veteran Politican Kenneth Matiba

g)      Former Head of Civil Service Jeremiah Kiereini

h)      Former Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organization chairperson Jane Kiano

Some popular cremation centres in Kenya are Kariokor Crematorium in Nairobi and Lang’ata Crematorium (Nairobi)


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