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HomeNewsKisii's Unsettled Souls: The Land Where Rest Eludes the Departed

Kisii’s Unsettled Souls: The Land Where Rest Eludes the Departed


Kisii’s Unsettled Souls: The Land Where Rest Eludes the Departed

The Kisii County government is grappling with a crisis of disposing of the dead after a public cemetery was grabbed and turned into a farm.

The county faces the daunting task of finding a burial site for the unclaimed bodies piling up in various public and private morgues.

The unclaimed bodies appear to be of those who, at the time of their deaths, had no fixed address or inheritance where they could be buried.

The crisis has also spread to the neighboring communities who depended on the Nyambera cemetery, which has now been turned into private land for individuals to grow grass for their animals.

Nyambera was one of the largest cemeteries in Kisii town, followed by another adjacent to the former district commissioner’s office, which was grabbed in the 1990s and the remains dug out and dumped elsewhere.

The cemetery, located along the Kisii-Ogembo road, a few meters from the Kisii Mwalimu Hotel, was raided by well-connected individuals who exhumed the skeletons of the dead and dumped them in rubbish bins before developing the land for commercial purposes.

The locals, who are also affected by the lack of a public cemetery, are now forced to look for alternative places to bury their loved ones as population pressure has meant that there is nowhere left to bury the dead.

Nyambera is the only public cemetery left for use by Christians and people of other persuasions. Muslims use their public cemetery in Daraja Mbili.

A section of the grabbed cemetery in Kisii town. The county government is said to be looking for another piece of land to use as a graveyard, an alarming situation that could be a pointer to what is taking place in other counties.

By early 2022, Nyambera cemetery was full and people were burying their loved ones on top of each other. The dead were restless as people moved graves around, digging up old ones and filling them with new ones.

The public cemetery and dumpsite had been politicized and the previous county leadership had spent tens of millions of public monies on non-existent land in Nyatieko.

The Nyatieko land, reportedly bought by the former regime for Sh34 million, was declared fictitious because it was the subject of a court case at the time of purchase.

The county government later lost the land, leaving the devolved unit without a public cemetery.

Kisii Governor Simba Arati says they are currently looking for another piece of land to use as a cemetery.

“They are now farming in the Nyambera cemetery after grabbing it. They removed people’s skeletons and burnt the bones to clear the land for farming,” said Mr Arati.

“Please look for land. We have money and we will include it in the budget. We want to make sure that we have land to bury our people,” Mr Arati said during the swearing-in ceremony of the new Ogembo Municipal Council members.

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He said it was unfortunate that Kisii did not have a public cemetery at the moment because selfish people had grabbed the little land that was left.

Kisii Governor Simba Arati said it was unfortunate that Kisii did not have a public cemetery at the moment because selfish people had grabbed the little land that was left.

“The public cemetery will help us resolve the issue of land disputes. We have no land here in Kisii and the population is very high. The plots are shrinking. We can have a modern cemetery where people are buried in layers, like in a multi-story building. Here in Kisii, we have not reached the point of cremating bodies and it will take time before we get there,” said Mr Arati.

The governor added: “For now, you (the board) have a responsibility to look for the land for the cemetery and we will ensure that
everything else is done per the law.”

The Kisii County government has been struggling to secure space for development projects as the land crisis in the region continues to escalate.

In particular, land earmarked for the affordable housing project has also been grabbed and the project may be delayed, or worse, never get off the ground in the region.

The alleged land grabbers and private companies have processed documents and transferred the public land into private ownership. Kisii is facing major challenges as the population explodes with no land available for expansion and settlement.

Kisii County alone has a population of 1,266,860 according to the 2019 Kenya National Census.

The Abagusii are also the seventh largest tribe in Kenya, accounting for six percent of the country’s population, according to the latest census report.

The lack of available land has stalled projects in the county, with some of Governor Arati’s major plans having to wait until the land becomes available.

The governor has expressed his government’s frustration in establishing some projects, saying communities are unwilling to give up available land.

He warned that the use of land in the district through excessive fragmentation for settlement was a major impediment to development.

Kisii’s Unsettled Souls: The Land Where Rest Eludes the Departed

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