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Last Updated: Monday, 14 July, 2003, 18:23 GMT 19:23 UK
Grave mistake for Uganda's tallest man
By Abraham Odeke
BBC, eastern Uganda

Uganda's tallest man has died, but his funeral in the eastern Uganda district of Tororo was delayed by an all too predictable problem.

A coffin
Grave-diggers under-estimated the size of the coffin
The longest coffin ever seen in the area could not fit in the normal sized grave, which had been dug by the villagers as John Apollo Ofwono's last resting place.

The 43-year-old and undisputed tallest man in Uganda, measuring 239cm (7 foot 10 inches) died last Friday of diabetes at Mulago Hospital in Kampala City.

Thousands of mourners on Monday, streamed into Yokolo Village to the West of Tororo to pay their last respects to the man who narrowly missed entering the Guinness Book of Records as the world's tallest man.

Both the funeral service and the speeches by various politicians and village traditional leaders went on smoothly.

Special grave

But the problems started when the Catholic priest leading the funeral service told some of the friends and relatives of the dead man to carry the body to the special grave completed with white wall tiles.

First, there was a stampede around the grave as everybody rushed forward to get a good position from where they could drop some earth into the grave in accordance with the burial tradition.

Then the mourners were surprised when the master of ceremonies announced that, due to some technical problems, the coffin could not be lowered.

It transpired that the villagers who were hired to dig the grave had seriously underestimated the length of the coffin.

Tororo Resident District Commissioner John Kizza and local MP Ogola Akisoferi praised the mourners for their patience as the grave diggers took 45 minutes to elongate the grave by three more feet before John Apollo Ofonwo could finally be lain to rest.

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