Cursed for leaving deceased in foreign land? Woman exhumes father's remains

Josiah Kangethe, his wife Monica Wanjiku, Jackson Karanja and Mary Wanjiku at the gravesite [Photo: George Njunge]

A family has exhumed remains of their kin who died 65 years ago, after a series of misfortunes.

The late Benjamin Njenga Mwangi who was son to a clerk in the area during the colonial era, was brutally murdered by unknown assailants at the height of the state of emergency as he walked home on the eve of his brother’s wedding.

Locals believe the killing was a revenge attack by those who perceived his father as a loyalist in Kibuku where most families were evicted for white settlers to take over the farms.

Mwangi’s only surviving child Mary Wambui Kuria returned to the area a few weeks ago to collect his remains from the ancestral land in Ngecha village, which has since been sold to a stranger.

No objection

The family wants to bury the remains next to his late wife in Nakuru County in the hope that this will stem calamities that have befallen the family.

“I met a relative who told me to fulfil what my mother had requested before her death and this took me aback. I wondered whether it had anything to do with the deaths in the family and I called for a meeting with my maternal relatives before we went to Limuru to talk to those from my dad’s side,” said Ms Wambui.

She filed a case in Limuru Law Courts on August 21 last year to be allowed to exhume Mwangi’s remains.

The court heard that the man’s grave was on a piece of land belonging to her aunty, after demarcation that led to subdivision of the land. Later the aunty sold the land.

“I was informed that a curse befell the family for leaving the spirit of the deceased in a foreign land and I want to fulfil my mother’s wishes,” she told the court.

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In consenting to the exhumation, a couple based in Texas, USA who bought the land in question filed an affidavit in court on October 28, saying they had no objection to Wambui’s wishes.

One of the conditions given by George Kariuki and his wife Florence was that the deceased’s daughter levels the ground after exhuming Mwangi’s remains.

Given that the grave was more than six decades old, the Ministry of Interior gave its input in the matter by ascertaining that it was in the area in question.

“He was confirmed dead in 1954. He was survived by five children,” said Kibuku sub-location chief Leah Ngutu in her letter to the court.

Relatives plant flowers where the remains of Benjamin Njenga in Nakuru [Photo: George Njunge]

Officers from Kiambu County’s Public Health Department visited the scene and filed a report indicating that exhuming the remains would not cause any environmental hazard.

Protective equipment

However, Limuru Sub-County Public Officer Albert Kiarie told the court to order  Wambui to provide personal protective equipment to the personnel to carry out the exercise, adding that the remains must be kept and transported under the well-covered container to the final interment place.

More than five grandchildren also swore and filed affidavits in court, saying they were not opposed to their grandfather’s remains being moved from Limuru to Nakuru.

On November 28 last year, Limuru Senior Principal Magistrate Evelyn Olwande granted Mary the orders sought after considering the evidence.

“Public Health Officer Limuru sub-county is hereby directed to supervise the implementation of this order,” she ruled.

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Armed with the order after spending close to five months in the corridors of justice, Wambui and her cousins bought a coffin the following day and exhumed the remains that were transported to Nakuru for internment that was attended by close to 100 relatives.

She told the Saturday Standard that it dawned on her in court that she was the only surviving member of her father’s house when she had to explain how each one met his or her death.

“It was like opening old wounds when I tried to justify to the court why it was important for me to exhume my father’s remains. The burden on my shoulders was removed and I am happy that my father is now at home with my mother,” she said, justifying the exhumation with a Bible verse:

“Joshua 32 says also the bones of Joseph, which the Israelites had brought up out of Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the plot of land that Jacob had purchased from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for a hundred pieces of silver. So it became an inheritance for Joseph’s descendants.”

When the Saturday Standard visited the home on Wednesday, Wambui’s cousins Josiah Kangethe and Jackson Karanja Kiarie said they planted a banana in the empty grave.

“The place where Mwangi was buried had been set aside by our grandfather Jackson Karanja Kiarie alias Ngondu as a family cemetery but the land was sold. The people who came to exhume the remains dug but when they saw part of the skeleton, they stopped and I had to do the remaining job since there was no one else to do it,” Kangethe said.

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