Mourners stranded as Lang'ata cemetery workers lock gate over unpaid salaries

Police officers open the gate to the Lang'ata Cemetery on September 20, 2023. 

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Services at Lang'ata Cemetery ground to a halt yesterday as cemetery workers downed tools in protest at unpaid salaries.

The 77 workers locked the main gate with chains, stranding mourners trying to bury their loved ones. The cemetery workers accused Governor Johnson Sakaja of reneging on a promise to pay them.

"The governor came and we had a meeting with him and he even made a phone call in our presence directing that we should be paid, but so far we have not received our salaries," one of the workers said.

They accused the county of delaying their payments without proper communication.

The standoff lasted for hours before police officers arrived and dispersed the protesters, allowing normal operations to resume.

Speaking to journalists, Urban Development and Planning Chief Officer Patrick Analo assured the workers that they would receive their salaries by Monday next week.

Mr Analo said the delay was caused by the lengthy process of ensuring that all county workers were captured in the Integrated Financial Management Information System and getting approval for payments from the Controller of Budget.

"This process has been completed and I want to say here with a lot of certainty that the process of induction of new county officials who are authorised to process personnel and salaries for the health sector has been completed," Mr Analo said. He said a request had been made for money to pay the 77 casual workers.

"It was just a matter of time. They will be paid by the beginning of next week at the latest. It is unfortunate that they went on strike today and blocked access to the cemetery. I wish they could have come to our offices at City Hall to air their grievances," said Mr Analo.

He also commended the efforts of the police officers in restoring normalcy in the area, claiming that the workers had broken the law by infringing on the rights of mourners to access the site. He regretted that some people were delayed in their right to burial by the protesters.

"It is also within the constitutional rights of mourners to be allowed access to this facility to bury their loved ones," Mr Analo added.

According to Mr Analo, the delay in payment of salaries to county workers is normal and that only recently, some counties were unable to pay their workers for about five months due to technical problems.

County Public Health Director Tom Michira Nyakaba termed the pay delay as unfortunate and commended the workers for their contribution in keeping the cemetery clean.