Set aside funds to build cemeteries, funeral parlours, counties told
Senators now want all the 47 county governments to set aside funds in their County Annual Development Plans for financial year 2020/2021, towards the planning and development of cemeteries, funeral parlours and crematory facilities.
In a motion tabled by nominated Dr. Alice Milgo, the lawmakers not only want the county governments to construct the facilities but make sure they are maintained and beautiful to look at.
The legislators also want the counties to develop gardens for recreation so that people mourn their dead and celebrate their lives.
Led by nominated Senator Petronilla Were (ANC), the politicians regretted that though the function of planning and developing cemeteries, funeral parlors and crematoria is now a function of county governments, several counties do not have the services yet.
“They should develop funeral homes and have chapels or churches within those funeral parlors,” Senator Were said in her support for the motion.
“The world is changing. As we move forward, we will highly require these services. This Motion is important as it will enable counties to prepare themselves to bury their own people; families may not be able to,” she added.
But nominated Senator Gertrude Musuruve (ODM) differed saying although burial sites are social fabric because of respect accorded to the dead, the facilities should not put it in the budget of the county governments.
However, she said, they are very many things that the counties need to do to ensure that they develop and maintain them.
According to her, governors should come up with good practices that will manage cemeteries.
For example, a cemetery should have a manager as well as have it managed healthy so that they are not scary places.
“They should be places where people can walk casually and relax. People should know that death is a transition. So, there is a need for capacity building and guidance,” she said.
In Western Kenya, for instance, the senator revealed, if the head of a family dies, he will be buried in front of the House.
If it is a daughter who was not married, she will be buried in banana plantations to show that she came back home.
In a situation where a person commits suicide, he or she, will be buried at night to show that it was a bad omen to the society.
According to Musuruve, the counties should borrow from the Western countries where cemeteries are well managed.
“There is also need to memorialize heroes at burial sites. We should provide areas to bury heroes who die and have nowhere to be buried back home,” she disclosed.
On her part, nominated Senator Agnes Zani (ODM) said though some counties have tried in the past to come up with ways and means of setting up crematoriums and specific cemeteries.
In the recent past, Senator Zani revealed some have moved forward to just do general planning of a particular place.
For instance, in counties, where the Muslim community are dominate, you will find that there are specific places for the burial to take place.
“This can either be within their homes or specific places set aside for the same,” She said.
According to the Islamic religion, she explained, if there is no Muslim there, then another Muslim should be able to take over and conduct the burial rites.
“Death does not just become a transition as such; it is a transition for the person who has died, but it is still a transition for the community in terms of how they will carry themselves, conduct the burial and what they will do,” she held.
However, the nominated Senator held everybody must be buried in a cemetery because cultures and traditions dictate in some instances.
She alleged, there are those who will have places to be buried in and there are those who will need to be buried in a cemetery.
In her motion, nominated Dr. Alice Milgo, she says, with the increase in urbanization and population; country is about three million shy of hitting the 50 million mark.
That means cemeteries in the Country are filling up, crowded and counties are finding it increasingly difficult to identify land to allocate as “public” for use as a cemetery.
Just like schools, recreational areas, hospitals, and toilets are important, she urged the crematoria, funeral parlours, as well as cemeteries, are vital.
Senator Milgo says, these facilities, are important in giving respect to people who have transitioned. In most counties, she held, the facilities have been neglected.
Further, with the diminishing land and the high cost of burying bodies, Senator Milgo wants counties to develop other methods of disposing of the dead will have to be embraced in the future.
“Our society has changed. Of late, a number of people of high status in the society prefer cremation. This is because some of the crematory materials such as ash are used to make jewelry, beads and ceramic cups,” the motion reads in part.
“Some of the ash is used to make tattoos and engrave names. In some cases, the ashes are put in glasses and seeds are planted there. Some people prefer this as opposed to burying bodies because they will be able to move around the ashes. It is a better method of remembrance,” she adds.
The senators insisted as the society changes, various methods of disposing of the dead will have to be embraced. That is why crematoria may become important even to those who now feel that it is a taboo.
The Fourth Schedule of the Constitution delegates funeral parlours and crematoria to county governments.
However, due to mismanagement, corruption and inefficiencies by the NLC, Senator Milgo observed the devolved units are not able to find public land to be set aside for public utilities, such as cemeteries and other facilities to honour those who have transitioned. Even replacing those that are already full is a great challenge.