Kenya officials ‘exhume man’s body to retrieve uniform’

Africa
The uniform hanging up Image copyright The Standard
Image caption One local official says the uniform was removed after a “symbolic burial”

Officials in western Kenya have exhumed the body of a local man to strip him of the uniform he was buried in, his widow has told the BBC.

Martin Shikuku Alukoye was buried in his full Kakamega County Youth Service uniform after drowning this month.

His family say officials then exhumed the body to retrieve the uniform, despite their opposition to the move.

A local official has denied the body was exhumed, saying the clothes were changed before the man was buried.

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Alukoye’s widow, Jacqueline, told BBC Swahili she was shocked and said the exhumation has made her suffering worse.

“This has piled on the misery I am going through, and my children are still young, since I was born I have never experienced such,” she said in an interview. “I would like to request them to leave me in peace”

The man’s uncle said they had violated “the laws of the land and the laws of our forefathers”.

“We had fully involved the county government in the burial arrangements and they never resisted our proposal to bury [him] in his work regalia,” Francis Mutamba said, according to the Daily Nation newspaper.

The family said they had opposed requests from officials to retrieve the uniform following the 31-year-old’s burial, but that officials then did so without their consent or a court order.

Image copyright The Standard
Image caption The authorities said they did not need his uniform and could afford to buy another one

The assistant chief of the Ituti area, Daniel Namayi, condemned the exhumation as he threatened legal action against the officers.

“Once a body has been buried, it requires anyone with a complaint to get a court order in order to exhume it. The county administrators have gone against the law in recovering [the] clothing,” he told the Daily Nation.

Elders of the Abang’onya clan have also criticised the county officials for the exhumation, which they view as being taboo.

“We had decided to bury our son at night in line with culture which dictates that a person who died by drowning should not be buried while the sun is shining. But the county officers have surprised us when they decided to exhume the body to recover their regalia,” Mr Mutamba said.

The body was dressed in a new set of clothes and re-buried earlier this week after elders performed rituals to cleanse the family.

But local official Robert Sumbi denied the body had been exhumed, telling the BBC the man was briefly dressed in his uniform for a “symbolic burial” before his clothes were changed.

The Kakamega County chief of staff said people were usually buried in civilian clothes, according to local traditions.

He added that the uniform had been left with the family, saying the local government could afford to buy a replacement.

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