Don’t believe the lies; cremation is not cheaper than African burials [Opinion]

What they are not telling you about cremation

A coffin being cremated

In the recent days, cremation has become a trending social topic especially after the confusion and drama that surrounded the interment of the remains of former MP Kibra MP Ken Okoth.

Okoth’s cremation came a few days after former Safaricom Bob Collymore was interred in the same manner, albeit without the noises from relatives and friends.

Perhaps the difference in how the processes were done was in the fact that Okoth was an African raised in accordance with Luo customs while Collymore hailed from the Carribean where most of the black people’s cultures has been eviscerated by domination of European culture.

My contribution to this debate, however, relates to a narrative that has been peddled around, mostly by middle class Kenyans that cremation is better than African burials.

The number one selling point has been the cost, many hailing the fact that Collymore was interred at a cost of Sh60,000 despite being a man of immense means.

There is no truth in the idea that cremation is cheaper and in my investigation, it costs much more than African burials.

Cremating a body approximately ranges between Sh6,000 to Sh60,000, exclusive of the cost incurred in memorial services.

African burials, on the other hand, cost much less in digging up the home of the departed.

Where I come from, young men volunteer to dig up the six by six home and are only compensated with a generous meal of ugali and meat.

All other costs incurred in an African burial are not excluded in the cremation as there are also burial committees, a casket, and daily prayers depending on the family’s plan.

In some cases, the extra costs in a cremation process are much higher as was the case in former Cabinet Minister Ken Matiba whose remains were transported to Murang’a for a service and later transported back to Nairobi for the cremation.

This is not an attack of Matiba’s choice but a point meant to demystify the idea that cremation is the cheaper method of disposing a body.

I am sure those of you who do not have a rural home are disputing my cost analysis as you have to pay for a space at the cemetery.

The most expensive cemeteries are to be found in Nairobi city which charges Sh31,000 for an adult burial space.

The cost around the country are as low as Sh3,000 – a far cry from the Sh60,000 needed for cremation.

Other narratives such as nonavailability of burial spaces and concern for the environment fall flat on their faces.

How can cremation be more environment-friendly when it involves burning the body for several hours using wood?

If the concern is space, why not choose to be buried without the grandiose graves that some people opt for?

I could be wrong, but methinks that this popularity of pro-cremation narratives among Kenyans is as a result of the African attitude that “anything foreign is better”.

Before you start scaring your conservative family members with these exotic burial ideas, please consider the points I have raised here and see if it is still worth to disturb the faith of the living at a time they will be grieving your death.

Tony Mukere is is a journalist and a sociopolitical commentator. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the position of Pulse Live Kenya

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