The dead at the Lang’ata Cemetery cannot rest in peace, and the bereaved cannot sleep peacefully thanks to a group of callous and greedy crooks whose appetite for cash knows no bounds, and respect no one — not even the dead.
On a normal day, the cemetery is a beehive of activity. In one corner, a group of 15 is holding a brief burial ceremony for their loved one, In another section , a group of workers is busy laying concrete slabs and placing a tombstone on a grave.
As you walk in, you will notice more workers either digging graves or erecting walls or metallic bars around some of the graves.
On top of some of the concrete walls, the workers place broken glass or barbed wire to keep intruders away.
These beautiful furnishings are intended to protect the graves from thieves, who steel caskets as well as livestock that graze inside the cemetery. These extras come in different shapes and sizes, depending on the amount the clients are willing to spend to prevent their loved ones’ resting places from being vandalised.
“The concrete slabs go for Sh15,000, while the metal rods cost Sh16,000. Those who want to plaster the entire grave and cover it in concrete slabs or marble pay at least Sh65,000, minus the tombstone. The amount depends on how fancy the client want the grave to be,” an undertaker told the Nation.
Ironically, the metal furnishings have become the latest targets for thieves seeking to make quick money.
This is because the cemetery has become the latest go-to source for unscrupulous scrap metal dealers.
If you buried your loved one at Lang’ata Cemetery and erected metal bars around the grave to protect it from intruders, you might want to check if they are still in place.
The Nation has established that the thieves visit the cemetery during the day, assess the graves and map out their targets before sneaking in from the adjacent forest at night to steal the bars.
They hide some in a nearby thicket for collection at the right time.
These are not sophisticated robbers. They are young men earning a living as robbers, using illegal means. It is not clear whether they work in cahoots with the cemetery staff, but their sole aim is to feed the unending demand for metal.
Some of the workers contracted to erect stone walls and concrete slabs around the graves confirmed that the thefts have increased in the last few months.
“We’ve been told to repair some of the work we did on several graves after they were vandalised at night. I think this happens at night because we find the bars removed when we report to work in the morning,” one of the workers said.
John Wanyama* lost his nephew two years ago. He was buried at Lang’ata.
“We erected metal bars around his grave to keep away livestock grazing in the cemetery and burglars, but I was shocked to find them stolen over the weekend when I passed by,” he says.
“I looked around and saw other graves that had been vandalised and felt very sad. People have no respect for the dead, none whatsoever. It’s so sad that those who buried their loved ones here and left will one day get a rude shock,” added Mr Wanyama.
The theft of the metal bars has now forced the county administration to patrol the graveyard at night.
On Sunday, a stranger who was seen roaming around the cemetery suspiciously was caught by the caretakers and beaten after he failed to give a satisfactory explanation for his visit.
“He said he had come to check on his relative’s grave, but his curious walk around the cemetery betrayed him. He could not tell the exact site of the grave he was searching for, so we concluded that his intentions were not good,” a worker said.
“We make three rounds every night with a focus on the permanent graves that are likely targets,” one of the cemetery’s workers explained.
Lang’ata Sub-county Police Commander Gregory Mutiso told the Nation that the thefts happens at night when the workers have gone to sleep.
“The gang creeps in at 2am, mainly from Kibra, to steal and hide the bars in a nearby thicket. They started preying on the bars after they were stopped from stealing the rail guards along the Southern bypass. This year alone, we have arraigned six suspects,” Mr Mutiso said.
He added that the thieves also target shelters at bus stops and any other metallic items they can lay their hands on.