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Friday,December 04,2020 10:14 AM

Resting your dead in city cemeteries

By Vision Reporter

Added 8th November 2004 03:00 AM

Tumusiime returned home one night to find his former girlfriend waiting for him. She had brought his sick baby. Their affair ended soon after the girl got pregnant. Apart from checking on her at hospital after delivery, Tumusiime never saw the six-month-old baby again.

Tumusiime returned home one night to find his former girlfriend waiting for him. She had brought his sick baby. Their affair ended soon after the girl got pregnant. Apart from checking on her at hospital after delivery, Tumusiime never saw the six-month-old baby again.

By Hilary Bainemigisha
Tumusiime returned home one night to find his former girlfriend waiting for him. She had brought his sick baby. Their affair ended soon after the girl got pregnant. Apart from checking on her at hospital after delivery, Tumusiime never saw the six-month-old baby again.
That morning after the baby died, Tumusiime ‘saw stars’. His parents never knew he had a child. Moreover, he had no money to transport the body home. “I was contemplating packing it in a suitcase and travel by bus when a friend advised me to go to Kampala City Council (KCC),” he said. With LC letters, he went to room 316B at the City Hall and got a permit for free, which he presented to the cemetery attendant at Lusaze. The kid was buried that same day.
Many people abandon their dead in hospitals, while others transport them in suitcases because transporting the body upcountry can be expensive.
KCC has many public cemeteries, which are free of charge. These include Bukasa in Bweyogerere, Lusaze in Rubaga, Kololo, (opposite BAT), Kiswa, Lugogo bypass, and Kulambiro in Nakawa division. But at the moment, only Bukasa and Lusaze have space.
It is not our culture to bury our dead in city cemeteries. People value burying their dead either in ancestral sites or upcountry homes. The majority of those interned in KCC cemeteries are the unclaimed or abandoned. But with the increasing cost of living, extensive travel and lower mortality, city dwellers must start cutting costs by burying their dead in city cemeteries. Some who have city premises may choose to bury there.
But according to Dr Mubiru Misach, KCC’s director of health services, even that option will soon cease. A by-law to stop people from burying their dead in their urban plots or premises is soon coming. Mubiru says this is for the purposes of future city planning. It will help to avoid the cumbersome arrangements of exhuming bodies for reburial.
City residents should start considering city cemeteries as viable option. “We work daily upto 6:00pm except on Sundays,” Mubiru says.
When a body is picked or abandoned, it is taken to the city mortuary for police to establish the cause of death and start investigations. If the body remains unclaimed, it is taken for burial in a city cemetery.
Waiting time for relatives depends on the state of the body at the time it was picked as well as the availability of space and power at the mortuary. “Sometimes when the fridge is not working, a body may not stay for more than 24 hours,” Mubiru says.
These days, more people (an average of 10 per month) approach KCC for access to cemeteries. To get a permit, the bereaved brings an LC letter or, if a patient dies in hospital, a death certificate. KCC has to keep the graves ready. “At any one time, there should be at least six open graves on stand by,” Mubiru says.
You are allowed to make adjustments like concretising it or building tiles. Otherwise, the covering of the grave is the responsibility of KCC cemetery attendant. KCC now has excavators to dig and cover graves quickly. For people who voluntarily ask for space, it is one body per grave. But those abandoned can be buried in mass graves.
A thousand bodies are estimated to be buried in these cemeteries per year.
KCC employs 20 cemetery workers, who include administrators, drivers, guards and maintainers of the premises.
Now that the demand for cemetery spaces has increased since establishment of the bylaw, KCC will have to face options of new grounds. New land can be bought outside the district, or privatisation may be considered.
Currently, religious institutions run and maintain private cemeteries such as Nsambya and Rubaga by Catholics and Archer Road by Muslims.
Physical estate planners will have to allocate land for cemeteries. The option of cremating bodies to save KCC space was abandoned because it is not in line with our cultures.
“One time, maternity centres and hospitals started incinerating placentas, but it sparked off a lot of resistance from expecting mothers. Many abandoned the centres because they did not want their ‘second child’ burnt,” Mubiru says.
KCC faces the problem of squatters. The Kiswa cemetery is gone. During the Obote II regime, many government officials allocated themselves the cemetery land. Evicting such people will be expensive.
Cemeteries are not a money-generating ventures. Only sh10m, up from sh7.1m was allocated for cemeteries in this year’s budget. Proposals to buy a hearse for proper body transportation has not materialised. Currently, a tarpaulin-covered tractor-trailer is used. This, however, causes havoc whenever it breaks down in public places.
The city mortuary has to be maintained – its water, telephone, electricity, general sanitation and facility repairs.
The Kololo cemetery occupies a prime land. Proposals to exhume the bodies for reburial elsewhere so that the land is utilised profitably has been made.
As more people begin to utilise city cemeteries, the importance of cemeteries will increase hence justify increased investment in them.
Ends

Resting your dead in city cemeteries

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