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Court allows family exhume kin’s body from mass grave

A Bungoma family whose kin was buried in an undisclosed mass grave without their consent has been allowed to exhume the body by a Nairobi court.

The family of Sabenzia Chepkesis Killong, whose body was interred at the Langata cemetery by the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) without their approval wants a post-mortem done to establish the cause of her death, as well as a permit to re-bury her in their home in Ndalu location, Bungoma.

Last week, Nairobi City County had blocked the exhumation of the body that was buried last month.

The county argued that if they were to be granted their request, it would mean the exhumation of 18 other bodies at the cemetery, an exercise that would “create a public nuisance”.

County Solicitor Eric Odhiambo Abwao also wondered how the family would recognise their kin, four months after burial.

“If the body of Sabenzia Chepkesis Killong was buried in the mass grave together with 18 other bodies as per exhibit TK4, then exhuming all the 19 bodies in order to take away one body shall be an exercise that may cause public nuisance against the provisions of the Public Health Act, Cap 242,” Mr Abwao said in his affidavit.

Killong, 47, disappeared on December 22 last year under mysterious circumstances.

The family searched for her in hospitals and mortuaries in vain, only to be informed by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) that she had died at KNH.

Upon inquiry, the hospital said it had buried her at the Lang’ata Cemetery ‘in a mass grave’ on April 27.

In a statement, KNH admitted that the deceased was indeed admitted to the hospital after initially denying that she had been admitted there.

“We, the Kilong family have received a media response from the Kenyatta National Hospital concerning the sickness, death and burial of our late daughter/sister Sabenzia Chepkesis Kilong commonly known as Spe, Sape, or Spencier with shock and disbelief,” said Brian Kilong.

The family now says that want to be given the body so that they can accord her a decent send-off.

“I also want to know the circumstances under which she died, and why the hospital went ahead to bury her, despite the DCI having identified her three days earlier. They buried her without informing us,” the father, George Killong, said.

KNH in their defence said they followed the Ministry of Health guidelines under the Public Health Act Cap 242 Laws of Kenya. The law recommends that a body should be removed from the mortuary within two weeks and thereafter disposed off.

Prior to that, a 21-day gazette notice should have been done for publication in the dailies with the names of the bodies for ease of identification.

“The Public Health Act CAP 242 allows hospitals to dispose unclaimed bodies after 10 days, however, KNH extends the waiting period by 11 days making it a total of 21 days”, the statement added.