Why opposition supporters in Kibera are planning funerals for the living
10 months ago, 4 Jan 00:11
“We are going out to defend our Constitution and fight for democracy. And as it is, five or six of us might be felled by the police. I do not know if it is my turn today, but I beseech you my friends, when I go down, do not let the ground that has fed on millions of bodies feast on mine in Lang’ata. Send me off with honour. I have a family, I have a home in Kochia, Homa Bay County. Do not let my wife and children whom I am joining this fight for gnaw in pain and eat from the bins where my oppressors throw their leftovers. The only honour I have is a Political Science degree that has never got me a job. My people, send me off with honour’’. These words by William Ochieng are what Mike Omolo (not his real name) recalls of his first sitting in a demonstrators' funeral and injuries committee at Kamukunji grounds in Kibera on August 12, last year. "Ochieng never made it, but his wishes were granted. His pale body, the head so badly smashed one couldn't recognise him, was picked from City Mortuary where police had taken it and he was given a decent send off. His wife and daughter have since moved out of Kibera,” Mike narrates, pain written all over his face. It is taboo in most African cultures to plan a funeral for a living person. But for Opposition supporters in Kibera, it is necessary to properly plan your funeral before you join in any demonstration. The funeral committees are charged with providing for the bereaved families, carrying out a requiem service and transporting the bodies home for burial. The first protest is not planned for, but the subsequent demos are well organised before protesters go to the streets. Whenever Raila Odinga, fondly known as ‘Baba’ by his supporters calls for mass action, the demonstrators form small committees of at least 12 members. “Each team has its leader who oversees all the functions of the group. But there’s is also a secretary and a treasurer,” says Mike. According to Mike, the secretary registers new members who was to join the demonstrations while the treasurer collects the registration fee and a refundable caution money. “Registration fees is usually Sh200 while the refundable caution money is Sh300. There are more contributions through harambees in case we lose one of our members,” says Mike. Part of their savings is also used to cater for hospital bills for those injured during the demonstrations. Members from other groups also chip in to assist in case of injuries or death. And in some occasions, National Super Alliance (NASA) leaders give contributions to the bereaved families. The members often belong to an existing social group, who regroup to form the funeral committees. Members of the committees know each other, including their families, where they work and stay. They even know one's rural home. “We know very well that whenever there are demonstrations ...
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