Normally, the burial of a man of Ambrose Nyachachu’s stature would have attracted hundreds of people, after a long mourning period marked by feasting.
But the centenarian was buried in Nyamira County in a simple ceremony attended only by close relatives, and which lasted less than two hours. “We had planned for a big ceremony but had to bury him quickly due to the threat of coronavirus,” said Jackline Sosi, a relative.
Christopher Masese, a village elder, said the community was shocked by the hurried burial. “This is against our traditions. We must be ready for repercussions,” he said.
Nyachachu’s family is among the first to heed a directive by county governments setting time limits for burials to check the spread of the virus.
Nyamira Governor John Nyagarama closed all mortuaries for 30 days, suspended overnight vigils and asked mourners to maintain at least a distance of one metre from each other.
Other governors who have issued similar directives are Dr Wilberforce Ottichilo (Vihiga), Joseph Nanok (Turkana), Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu), Okoth Obado (Migori) and Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega). Counties in the North Rift Economic Bloc (Noreb) have also closed their mortuaries.
Noreb chairman Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu) said they had also agreed that burials be conducted within 24 hours of death, with no more than 50 people attending.
In Kisumu, the Nation found Ms Linet Akinyi struggling to come to terms with the directive to bury her husband within 48 hours.
“You cannot ambush people with a directive to bury their loved ones within 48 hours,” said Mr John Auma, who recently lost a brother, adding that in some cases, burials have to be approved by the courts.
In Kisii, Marani Sub-County administrator David Saruni ordered those conducting funerals to ensure mourners do not share microphones.
In Migori, Health Executive Isca Oluoch waived all bills and directed relatives to collect their dead from the mortuaries for burial.
The burials should be conducted quickly, with only close family members attending, he added.
“We will support the bereaved to bury their dead within the shortest time possible,” she said.
At the Kakamega County Referral Hospital mortuary, relatives were not allowed to view bodies before collecting them for burial.
The administrator, Mr Titus Omondi, said the county had waived mortuary fees as directed by the governor.
“Because of fears over the possibility of the spread of the virus, we have decided to make it easy for relatives to collect the bodies without delay,” said Mr Omondi.
Reports by Elizabeth Ojina, Benson Amadala, Nyambega Gisesa, Ian Byron, George Odiwuor and Sharon Achieng