Relocating graves to pave way for railway

August 3, 2018 1:25 pm
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A section of Wanjiru’s land in Ngong where it was acquired for constructing part of the SGR station/SAM WANJOHI

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 3 – Some 50 metres from Virginia Wanjiru’s house in Kangawa village, the grave of her daughter is still noticeable.

That of her grandchild too can be seen.

But it is conspicuous that they have not cleared the bushes for some time, but this not out of neglect or fatigue.

They are on the move.

The month was December in 2016 when they received what to some remains the most depressing news but to others, God had answered their prayers.

Their land was to be compulsorily acquired by the government to pave way for the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway line, as well as the Ngong Station.

It is one of the five stations within Kajiado County. The entire stretch from Nairobi to Naivasha will have 12 stations.

But somehow, majority of the locals have retired to fate, after all, there is no option – but Wanjiru has not moved on.

– The train of mixed feelings –

After 42 years in her one and half acre piece of land, no amount of money can heal her soul, which is in pain.

Nothing was formal in how the information was delivered, Wanjiru says, sentiments shared by her village mates.

“Is this the pain that comes with development?” she wonders.

“Initially, I was told that my daughter’s grave will not be affected but that is no longer the case since they have taken all my land,” 65-year-old Wanjiru told Capital FM News.

Though there is the promise of compensation at the market rate, Wanjiru cannot equate the value of her property to anything.

The mother of six had hoped to spend her sunset years in the piece of land, a place she has called home for four decades.

It is the same land, her own blood is resting.

“I don’t want to think of carrying her remains to another place. It is painful,” she says.

“Where do I start?”

Her late daughter left three children whom she says, “given an option, I would never want them to witness the remains of their mother being exhumed. It will open fresh wounds.”

Wanjiru’s case is not unique as several other locals have been affected.

“I don’t know any other home. All our relatives who have passed on have been buried in this land. We have more attachment to it than what it is worth,” another one who did not want to be named said.

The death of one his relative was shrouded in mystery, and years later has not been unravelled.

“It will revive the sad memories and bring back the many questions that remain unanswered,” he said.

A huge section of Kangawa village has been affected due to the acreage needed to construct a station.

-Emotional attachment-

When Wanjiku Njenga moved to Kangawa, some 40 years ago, just like in the case of Wanjiru, she says the land was all bare.

Then, they say, there were no basic facilities like roads, electricity, and water.

“Those who would fall ill would be wrapped in a blanket and then carried by men to the hospital. We lost many during the rainy seasons,” Wanjiku said.

“But just when we thought we have settled, with better roads and electricity, the SGR came. It is like someone taking your baby after he is all grown up.”

The mother of six is also in pain since her husband is buried in the affected parcel of land.

“The grave will have to be moved but after I am compensated,” she said.

As they wait for the compensation, the pain of living their “leafy village” will be that of someone divorcing their loved ones, not that they want but as decided by fate.

It is not debatable that many lives have positively changed as a result of the multi-billion shillings project, but we also have those that are left wounded.

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