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Would you build your home next to burial grounds?

By Vision Reporter

Added 19th November 2010 03:00 AM

PERSONALLY, I would not mind building or buying my future dream home next to a graveyard or burial grounds. At least I am assured of quiet neighbours, and the grass is always green.

PERSONALLY, I would not mind building or buying my future dream home next to a graveyard or burial grounds. At least I am assured of quiet neighbours, and the grass is always green.

By Alex Balimwikungu

PERSONALLY, I would not mind building or buying my future dream home next to a graveyard or burial grounds. At least I am assured of quiet neighbours, and the grass is always green.

However, because Ugandans maintain a strong attachment to the dead, it is a very thorny issue. Asking an average Ugandan whether they would build next to a graveyard is treated as an abomination.

The population rise not withstanding, some of these grave yards have been desecrated by private developers, real estate agencies and individuals. The latest case in point was when Kampala City Council’s cemetery at Bukasa in Wakiso came under threat of an illegal take-over from private developers.

Though Kampala mayor, Nasser Ntege Sebaggala dismissed the allegations as false and pledged to protect the burial grounds, a heated debate ensued. Where some openly castigated him for people contemplating such a heinous act, others are in full support.

“But protect the grounds for what? Do the dead really mind where they are buried? How many people have died over the last 100 years?” asks a private developer. “Why should we always keep our minds on the dead at the expense of the living? From a Christian perspective, once one dies, their physical life is over and what matters is the soul,” Sebaggala adds.

Statistics show that most of the arbitration cases in Buganda are those of individuals who sell off family burial grounds. Most of the cases reported are in Wakiso and Mukono districts. Some cases have resulted into deaths of feuding family members.

Cultural beliefs
James Seremba, 67, says according to Buganda tradition, it is an abomination to build next to a graveyard as the ghosts are perceived to haunt your home, accusing you of building next to them and not providing shelter.

He says if one opts to exhume the dead, some rituals have to be observed. For instance, it is an abomination for one who participated in the initial burial, to get involved in the exhumation.

“Most people who are hired to exhume often bode on the brink of being mentally disturbed. As a must, these men, mostly habitual drunkards, bathe with the natural herb Ebbombo and are given a chicken to slaughter, for each body exhumed,” he says. “They are also given a jerrycan of local brew (Tonto) and bark cloth to wrap the dead. If there are multiple graves, it is advisable to slaughter a goat.”

He says exhuming is only done after 4:00pm and the dead have to be re-buried after darkness falls.

Richard Semakadde, a taxi driver, recently bought land with graves at an amazingly cheap price. He bought a 70X100 piece of land in Magere, Gayaza Road, at sh4.5m. On inspection, he discovered three graves on the plot. This never dissuaded him.

“I paid sh25,000 for the traditional rituals, sh30,000 for each body exhumed, sh150,000 to transport the remains, and sh200,000 to the family. I spent less than sh500,000 on the whole process, but I can now sell this land at sh15m,” he boasts.

Graveyards affect re-sale
Flavia Genza of Zion Constructors Kibuye, says it is advisable to clear all graves because they affect re-sale since most Ugandans fear the prospect of living next to graveyards.

Would you build your home next to burial grounds?

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