Villagers in West Ugenya location in Siaya county woke to a rude shock last Tuesday morning after a section of a family feuding over the burial place of a mother of four secretly interred the remains in the dead hours of the night.
Shocked villagers were taken aback on learning that the controversy riddled funeral plans was concluded without the traditional ceremonies that characterized the final sendoff to a prominent member of the Luo community.
The residents of Siginga village were left tongue tied after it emerged that the family of the late Beatrice Apondi Otieno outwitted those opposed to her burial at the family’s cemetery on grounds that she was no longer married to one of the son of the late Cabinet Minister Archbishop Stephen Ondiek.
The weird burial comes after Archbishop Ondiek’s widow, Dr. Concilia Ondiek reportedly sought an order before a Siaya court to restrain Beatrice’s mother, Grace Achieng Otieno and brother, Wycliffe Otieno from burying the deceased daughter in law at the family’s cemetery.
But in a twist of events, three sons to the former cabinet minister took sides with the family of the estranged in-laws and offered help to hurriedly conducted the bizarre burial ceremony in the dark to avoid the wrath of those bitterly opposed to her burial at the site.
According to witnesses, a convoy of three vehicles snaked its way into the village shortly after 10pm and went straight into a Legio Maria sect church compound that was adjacent to the late minister’s rural home where the deceased’s brother, Wycliffe Otieno and mother, Grace Achieng Otieno were joined by a handful of mourners who lowered the casket.
“After a few hours rest, the mourners, who had been joined by hired drunk youths took the casket to an already prepared grave but another hitched cropped up after it emerged that the casket could not fit in and required some adjustments,” said an eye witness who chose anonymity.
He told KNA that the adjustment caused some unexpected delay to the well timed ceremony and when it was amended to fit, the casket was hurriedly lowered and covered to the relief of anxious mourners who immediate headed back to Archbishop Ondiek’s home as hired mason made final touches on the fresh grave. .
The villagers, most of whom were not aware of the incident, said they came to learn of it Tuesday morning when a hurriedly convened funeral service was held at the politician’s home where free food and drinks were served to anybody willing to partake.
The late Beatrice Otieno’s family has been locked in dispute with a section of the former minister’s family over the burial site.
Her mother and brother had insisted on burying her at the former minister’s home, claiming that she was married to one of his sons, Solomon Ondiek, who lives in the United States but a section of the family are in dispute, saying that the deceased was married to a man in the village who paid her dowry as per Luo customs.
She pleaded with the court to stop her burial at the family graveyard, saying that she was not a member of the family and her burial at plot number North Ugenya/ Sifuyo/555 would be against the wishes of the late family patriarch who left a will describing who could be buried there.
Through her lawyers, Ombiro Ogachi advocates, Mrs. Ondiek urged the court to bar the deceased’s mother and brother or their agents from interring her remains at her land situated at Siginga village in West Ugenya as she was not a family member.
She told Siaya Principal Magistrate Mr. James Ong’ondo that the deceased was married to one Richard Kobare who was still alive and that the marriage was blessed with two children, both boys aged 18 and 16 years respectively.
Issuing the injunction last Friday, the principal magistrate, Mr. Ong’ondo barred the defendants from burying the deceased at any place or date that has not been approved by the complainant until the matter will be heard and determined.
Ong’ondo further ordered the Officer Commanding Ukwala police station to enforce the order and ordered that the matter be heard on 11/6/2019.
But in a turn of events, the defendants obtained an order from the same magistrate on Monday staying his previous injunction and ordering the management of Same Day Classmate Private Mortuary to release the remains of the deceased for burial.
Armed with the fresh order, the mother and son hurriedly removed the corpse and conducted the night burial, in fear that Mrs. Ondiek would move to a higher court to cancel the Principal Magistrate’s order.
Speaking to Kenya News Agency, Mrs. Ondiek said she will move to the high court to seek orders to exhume the remains that were interred in her land without consent.
“It appears they hoodwinked the magistrate that they will not inter her remains in my land. They must be prepared to meet the cost of exhuming the remains of a stranger from my land,” she said.
By Philip Onyango