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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 August, 2003, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Row over Kenya leader's burial
Kenyan Vice-President Michael Kijana Wamalwa
Traditionalists do not want Wamalwa buried at Heroes' Square
A row is threatening to scuttle the burial plans of Kenya's Vice-President Michael Wamalwa, with the government and the late politician's family and clan proposing different sites

Some members of the late vice-president's family want him buried in his ancestral Western Kenya home, while the government suggests that he becomes the first person to be buried at the new Heroes' Square in the capital, Nairobi.

Mr Wamalwa died on Saturday aged 58 in London's Royal Free Hospital where he had been undergoing treatment for several weeks.

His body is scheduled to arrive in Nairobi from London on Wednesday morning, with a state burial scheduled for 6 September.

The decision to bury Mr Wamalwa in his home-town of Kitale was reached on Monday at a meeting attended by two of his brothers, several uncles, clan elders and several government ministers.


Traditional clan elders, whose word on such matters as death is regarded as final in many African societies, warn that the family could be hit by a calamity if the late vice-president is buried away from his ancestral home.

But as the group representing the family was discussing the late vice-president's burial plans in Western Kenya, the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Kiraitu Murungi, was proposing that Mr Wamalwa be laid to rest in Nairobi.

Mr Kiraitu argued that this would befit Mr Wamalwa's status as a great Kenyan leader.

The government position was supported by some delegates at the National Constitutional Conference in Nairobi, who say that Mr Wamalwa should be laid to rest at Heroes' Square because he was among the pioneers of what they call Kenya's second liberation.

This refers to last December's election defeat of the Kanu party, which had ruled since independence in 1960.

Heroes' Square was established only three weeks ago by Mr Kiraitu, who said that plans were under way to rebury the remains of Kenya's best known freedom fighter, Dedan Kimathi at the site.

It is not unusual in Kenya for bodies to lie in mortuaries for long periods as families haggle over where a body should be buried.

The wrangling over Mr Wamalwa's burial place is said to have slowed down activity at his rural home, with many family members now confused about where or when he would be buried.

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