Politics of funerals in Western and spate of violence

Natembeya and Wetangula

Supporters of Trans Nzoia Governor George Natembeya (left)  and National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula clashed at a burial ceremony leading to chaos. 

Photo credit: Pool

Politicians from Western Kenya region have been put on notice for causing chaos during burials denying families ample time to give their departed decent send off.

While burying a relative is considered to be a trying moment, a time to grieve and remember the life of a loved one by family members, politicians have hijacked these forums for their supremacy contest.

They attempt to showcase their command to huge gatherings and outweigh each other verbally and physically, sometimes leading to physical fights that disrupt the solemn ceremonies. 

In the ensuing melee, many families are left with debts to pay after hired chairs, tents and even cars got damaged and even food looted. 

Some burial services have ended tragically and sustainance of serious injuries after politicians and their supporters engage in physical fights.

Some of the latest incidences were witnessed last Friday in Matungu, Kakamega and Goseta in Trans Nzoia where mourners were forced to scamper for safety with family members forced to sneak away the bodies of their loved ones after groups supporting different politicians clashed. 

In Trans Nzoia, during the burial of Sandra Nyongesa, wife to nominated MCA Philip Nyongesa, chaos rocked the burial ceremony of the departed.

Mourners had to flee for dear lives as police lobbed teargas canisters to disperse the irate crowds as the family hurriedly laid to rest the deceased after the funeral service was aborted.

This was the first time in several months that National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula and Trans Nzoia Governor George Natembeya were sharing a podium after months of shadowboxing each other.

"We appealed to the Bishop to allow us to bury our loved one hurriedly. We did not expect the things that happened to occur in our home, it was so unfortunate,” said Mr Nyongesa.

The family rues that a church service for their loved one was not comprehensive after the youth disrupted the funeral service.

As this was happening in Trans Nzoia, a similar occurrence was witnessed in Munami, Matungu constituency when allies of area MP Peter Nabulindo and those of aspiring MP Bernard Wakoli clashed during the burial of Joshua Atwa, the father of Mr Paul Okwara Atwa, manager and human resource and administration officer at the Water Sector Trust Fund (WaterFund).

Mr Wakoli stormed in during the burial service in the company of his supporters who were chanting songs in his praise. Speeches were underway.

The group heckled Mr Nabulindo when he rose to address the mourners attracting wrath of his supporters.

The two groups engaged in a physical confrontation, disrupting the burial service and leaving several people with injuries and property destroyed.

The family was also forced to rush to bury their father amid running battles before the police intervened and calmed the situation.

The family condemned the incident and asked the two politicians to apologise and offer compensation for the loss incurred including broken chairs, vandalised tents, looted food and damaged public address systems.

“We stand together as a family to denounce the ordeal. We condemn the incident because we are not associated with any politician and expected that everyone who attended the burial service had come to condole with us. We did not imagine that some people had come to flex their political muscles,” said Mr Okwara.

He said many people attended the burial service at Munami primary school who the family believed were their friends and had come to offer them a shoulder during the trying moment.

“Our father loved peace and preached peace to everyone. It is unfortunate that his burial would be chaotic. As a family, we are highly concerned and have reported the matter to Koyonzo police station so that we get justice. The two politicians have to meet the cost of the property that ware damaged,” he added.

This comes after Interior Cabinet Secretary Kindiki Kithure warned political leaders to stop using goons to disrupt funerals.

Mr Kindiki warned that no one is above the law and anyone perpetrating violence in public gatherings must face the law.

“We shall go for everyone regardless of their standings in the society and their political affiliations. Everybody must follow the law without exception,” said Mr Kithure.

Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa, Mumias East MP Peter Salasya, and Kakamega county woman representative Elsie Muhanda have also condemned the fighting in funerals.

“We are a very good example. We have been quarreling in funeral ceremonies whenever we meet but we have resolved to put aside our differences and promote peace so that Kakamega can realise development.

"We condemn the chaos witnessed in Matungu and ask other politicians to promote peace. There is no reason to fight anyone because of politics,” said Mr Barasa during a funds raise for women groups in Mumias East.

Mr Salasya asked other MPs to stop mobilising youth to heckle their rivals in funerals.

“Let us learn to practice political tolerance and stand with bereaved families and support them in giving their loved ones decent send-offs whenever we attend funeral services,” said the lawmaker.

Ms Muhanda condemned politicians who cause violence in funerals of being inconsiderate to the fate of death.

“It is too bad for political leaders to fight in funerals when families are grieving the loss of their loved ones to politicise and fight because this exposes the lack of goodwill by politicians who grace the funeral events to ensure sanity,” she said.