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Matiba final journey takes shape

Bernard Gitau @benagitau Wednesday marks the first of Kenneth Matiba’s last three days journey as the one of Kenya’s Second Liberation icons heads for cremation on Friday.

According to a tentative schedule released yesterday by the family and government funeral committee, Matiba’s body will leave Nairobi’s Lee Funeral Home for the All Saints’ Cathedral tomorrow in Nairobi for funeral service before being taken to Ihura Stadium in Murang’a county, his birthplace, for another service and public viewing on Thursday.

And on Friday, the body of the former Kiharu MP and Cabinet minister, will be cremated at Langata Cemetery Crematorium at a private ceremony attended by family and close friends.

Addressing the media yesterday, Transport Cabinet secretary James Macharia, who was with family, said there would be two processions from the funeral home and another one on Thursday to Murang’a county.

He spoke after meeting the family and committee members at Harambee House in Nairobi and said the government will give Matiba a special send-off.

“On Wednesday procession starts from Lee Funeral towards Haile Selassie Avenue then through Uhuru Park to All Saints’ Cathedral where members of the public should be seated by 10 am,” he said.

On Thursday, Macharia said the procession will start from Lee Funeral Home once more, towards Thika Road through Pangani and Forest Road. “As a country, we must give him a special send-off for his sacrifices and struggle for democracy and freedom,” he said.

On Sunday, the widow, Edith Matiba, told family members during a prayer service that her husband willed for cremation. He will join the ranks of prominent Kenyans who chose the cremation path—an alien practice that can be traced to Hindu Community —but one that has been gaining currency among the elite in the country.

In 2011, the late Nobel Peace Prize winner and environmentalist Prof Wangari Maathai chose cremation with her body placed in a coffin woven out of a water hyacinth weed after decreeing that no tree should be felled to make her casket.

Though not popular with many of her admirers, the family had to respect her wishes for her body to be cremated at the Kariokor Crematorium and the ashes interred at the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies at the University of Nairobi’s Kabete campus.

And former Anglican Archbishop Manasses Kuria and his wife Mary Kuria were also reduced to ashes in a move that generated furious debate. The former archbishop stoked the controversy, especially within the church, after he cremated his wife at the Langata Crematorium two days after she passed away at the Nairobi Hospital in 2002.

Three years after his wife’s death, the clergyman died of heart attack and was also cremated. The debate on cremation remains divisive in religious circles and African society with some terming it ungodly and taboo. In Hinduism, however, cremation severs the ties of the soul to the body that it is leaving, freeing it to move toward freedom (mukti).

In 1996, the outspoken and controversial former assistant Minister Peter Habenga Okondo was also cremated causing divisions between the minister’s family and his Banyala clan members. The former minister came under severe criticism for threatening outspoken Anglican bishop Alexander Kipsang Muge with death.

In 1990, three days before Bishop Muge’s death, Okondo had said at a rally that the bishop ‘’might not leave alive’’ if he visited Okondo’s constituency, Busia, in Western Kenya. Bishop Muge, a leading critic of the government was killed when a milk truck crashed into his car as he was returning home from visiting Busia on August 14, 1990.

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