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Covid-19: Siaya man’s family sues, wants body exhumed

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The son and sister of Siaya Covid-19 victim James Oyugi Onyango have sued to have his body exhumed.

Joan Akoth Ajuang and Brian Thomas Oyugi are demanding that an autopsy be done to ascertain the actual cause of death and a decent burial accorded to him thereafter.

Should it be found that he died as a result of coronavirus, the family says that he should be given a decent burial in line with World Health Organization WHO) guidelines on the safe management of a body.

Mr Oyugi’s kin also want to be allowed to nominate a maximum of 15 people from immediate or extended family members to witness the autopsy, all of who are to wear protective gear provided for by the Ministry of Health.

In the law suit filed at the High Court in Siaya, the two petitioners have listed Michael Owuor Osodo, chief of Simur Kondiek Location, as a first respondent.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe is listed as the second, the Attorney General as third and the Law Society of Kenya as an interested party.

RULES BREACHED

The suit comes amid heavy criticism over the Sunday morning burial after it emerged that Ministry of Health (MoH) rules on burying of Covid-19 victims may have been breached.

According to MoH regulations for disposal of Covid-19 victims, before the commencement of handling of the remains, the family must be fully informed about the dignified burial process and their religious and personal rights to show respect for the deceased.

It also took place between 1 and 2 am on Sunday morning in the presence of a handful of people, including security and county health officials.

However, this is in contravention of gazetted rules under the Public Health Act that stipulate funerals must only happen during the day.

“The burial or cremation ceremony may only take place between 0900 hours – 1500 hours,” Section 8 (1) (b) of the Public Health rules on Covid-19 says.

COMPARISONS

Many Kenyans commenting on the matter online drew parallels between Mr Onyango’s burial and that of previous coronavirus victims in the country.

For instance, the first Kenyan to succumb to Covid-19 — Engineer Maurice Namiinda — was buried in Naisambu village, Trans Nzoia County last Tuesday in a 35-minute ceremony attended by immediate family members and officiated by the Catholic Church.

Another Covid-19 victim, Kenya Airways Captain Daudi Kimuyu Kibati, was buried at a ceremony attended by 15 people at Mavindini village, Kitui Rural Sub-County amid tight security.

Both funerals were conducted during the day, unlike that of Mr Oyugi.

The victim’s brother, identified as Zack Onyango, in a recent interview with a local radio station accused the State of burying his kin “like a dog.”

He also alleged that the family was denied the opportunity to accord the deceased a decent send-off.

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