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When Bora Beuch Mwingo got buried on April 4, 2020, his family hoped he would finally rest in peace.

Mwingo lived a troubled life for most of his 82 years – he battled a bladder infection, a fight he lost on April 3, 2020. Mwingo’s liver was damaged, too.

But what his family did not know is that in less than two weeks after burying him, they will find his corpse exhumed and tossed on a path leading to his former home, two kilometres from the graveyard.

Mwingo’s youngest grandchild discovered his body at 6 am on April 15, 2020, wrapped in a blanket, mat, and an iron sheet, as was embalmed. It might have been exhumed the previous night.

The family of Mwingo did not inter him using a coffin. They were cutting expenses in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, which has ravaged the economy and left many financial taps dry.

The deceased’s family suspects a land dispute caused exhumation. The parcel in question is 10 acres, and Mwingo’s family is staking a claim, so does their distant relatives.

Mwingo’s four sons positively identified his body, kicking off 33 hours of tension. Their village in Kituu, Kinango, Kwale, became a no-go-zone. Mwingo’s kin armed themselves and prepared for a night of long knives. But there was no target on sight.

The family held a vigil to “guard” the corpse and shield it from stray dogs. The stench from the body did not dampen their resolve.

Health concern

MUHURI’s Rapid Response team arrived at the scene on April 16, 2020, at 1 pm, and found the body still at the same tossed spot. MUHURI wanted to quell the tension, block possible violence, mediate, and offer psychosocial support.

Mwingo’s two wives and dozens of relatives – all surrounding the body – were wailing uncontrollably. Villagers watched the deceased’s family from a distance. They empathized, many shaking and bowing their heads in grief.

Rage was palpable. Though the family had not reached a consensus on how to handle the body, all members appeared to agree that the corpse should not be touched until exhumers are identified – and punished. This would take days, weeks, months, or years.

There was a health concern, too. Leaving the body exposed increased the chances of Kituu village contracting diseases.

“We have to compromise to protect our health, keep the body in dignity, and push the police to investigate this matter to its logical conclusion, as their duty demands,” MUHURI Rapid Response Officer Francis Auma told Mwingo’s family and Kituu villagers.

Kinango OCPD, Fredrick Ombaka, joined Auma.

“We empathize with you for the loss of your loved one. Police will conduct its probe and take necessary action. But we urge you, let us rebury the body,” Ombaka pleaded.

And finally, the family agreed to reinter, albeit after prolonged persuasion.

MUHURI assisted the family to get OB number 7/15/4/2020 at Samburu police station.

Fair trial

Police arrested one villager they said he is a person of interest.

But the suspect, speaking inside a police car, denied any involvement. He spent the night of April 16 at Samburu police station.

MUHURI Rapid Response Officer, Francis Auma ( with face-mask), and Bora Beuch Mwingo family members stand before the late’s body. Photo: © 2020 Ernest Cornel.

Auma cautioned police, asking them to be extremely careful with their investigation, which must be evidence-based.

“Let it not be a knee-jerk reaction. Police must deliver justice on both sides by giving the suspect a fair hearing, and if he is culpable, officers should arraign him.

“This way, the family of the deceased will appreciate justice has been served, and the accused will not complain of victimization,” Auma said.

On this day, MUHURI managed to salvage the situation. This peace will be eternal if warring parties resolve disputes legally.

MUHURI hopes security agents will continue to keep law and order, as required in the 2010 Constitution.

For the feuding factions, MUHURI urges them to choose peace over violence and end wrangles lawfully.