In the past years, a cemetery was seen as a sacred and feared place. But the perception is slowly changing. Cemeteries are no longer feared.
The word cemetery was not supposed to be uttered, as it was believed it would awaken the dead. In some cultures, like the Agikuyu, to point a finger at a cemetery was synonymous with wanting to have your fingers rot.
Things have however changed as the bereaved can now go to the cemeteries, hold memorial services with total comfort and even put on flowers and maybe like in the non-African countries kiss the grave.
In Gituamba Location, Kiamaina Ward in Bahati Nakuru, sits a three-acre cemetery that was turned into a sports field.
According to the residents, the cemetery had been full to capacity for close to 20 years, and they wished to put the field to a ‘better use’.
“Gone are the days where we feared graves and cemeteries, but today we believe that after we bury the dead, they are completely gone and life moves on without a fuss” Jane Waithera, a resident in Gituamba retorted.
Echoing Waithera’s sentiments, David Ndegwa Macharia, a Nyumba Kumi head in the area said that the decision to change the cemetery’s use was reached after series of public participation meetings, to ensure that the cemetery helped not only the lifeless bodies but also the living in the area.
“For the dead, the cemetery is only home to their bodies, and now that we are alive, we thought it better to have the cemetery help us better our lives and those of our children '' Ndegwa said.
It is after the decision that the local leaders convened a ceremony to sanctify the cemetery, to ensure that those using it as a sports field would not be attacked by the spirits of the dead.
Using anointing oil, a rock, a packet of salt and a jembe stick, Apostle Peter Maina of the Full Gospel Church Kiamaina led the clergy to sanctify the field urging the youth who will benefit greatly from the newly put to use sports field not to turn them away, whenever they seek permission to use the field for crusades and other church activities.
“And to you, the beneficiaries, kindly do not turn us away when we seek to use the field for our church activities, for besides this one sanctification, the field needs more deliverance in order to completely condemn the spirits of the dead.” He said while changing the name from ‘Makaburi’(cemetery) to ‘Kirathimo grounds’ (Blessings).
On his part, the area Member of County Assembly Wahome Jambo Kenya, said that the cemetery had been associated with crime, and while it was crucial to clean it up, they needed to change it from a government’s cemetery to public land.
“The residents of Gituamba had for a while complained of insecurity and cases of defilement that they said were enabled by the bushy cemetery, and to get a lasting solution, they asked us to put up a market. With further consultation, with the locals and other leaders, we agreed to put up a sports field, and instead get another piece of land to put up the market,” Wahome said.
He added that while the county faces a shortage of cemeteries, the budget committee in the Nakuru county Assembly, in which he is a member, has set aside funds to secure other pieces of lands to put up cemeteries.