Mbarara City leaders clash with locals over cemetery land

MBARARA, February 24, 2024 – A group of angry locals days ago attacked Mbarara City Council officials and security personnel following the burial of unclaimed bodies in Kanywa land located in Mbarara City North Division, Mbarara City.

According to Gumisiriza Kyabwaisho, the Mayor of Mbarara City North Division, locals were shocked last Wednesday evening when a group of people guarded by police officers stormed their area and buried a total of 40 bodies in a single grave.

He said the locals who tried to confront the officials over the incident were beaten, arrested, and detained by the police.

According to Kyabwisho, the locals in the area are at risk of contracting water-borne diseases since said bodies were buried next to a communal water dam.

He blamed city council officials for not consulting with leaders of Mbarara City Norther Division before taking a decision to burry the bodies on the contested land. “It is very  unfortunate that as division leaders, we were not consulted. Why would a city council which advocates for good public health go ahead to bury corpses next to a water dam?” Kyabwisho said.

Emmanuel Bamwine, one of the aggrieved locals, said the bodies were buried next to the only source of water they have in the area.  “We fear the water in the dam will get contaminated,” he said, appealing to the city authorities to reallocate a cemetery elsewhere.

Godfrey Baryomunsi, the Area Councillor said Mbarara City Council lost the former public graveyard in Rwobuyenje situated in Mbarara City North Division to land grabbers who connived with some leaders in the then Mbarara Municipality to take over and turn the cemetery into a real estate hub.

Way forward

Meanwhile, Bonny Tashobya Karutsya, Speaker of Mbarara City Council directed the Mayor, Robert Mugabe Kakyebezi, and City Town Clerk, Assy Abirebe Tumwesigire to exhume the bodies and bury them away from the nearby water dam.

“It was our council resolution to bury in Kanywa land but we did not tell them to bury near a water source,” he said.

He also directed the town clerk and mayor to call a crisis meeting with different stakeholders in the city to resolve the issue of location cemeteries.

“There should be an emergency meeting and action. We need to have two permanent cemeteries  one in North Division and another in South Division,” he said, urging stakeholders to agree on specific places where the cemeteries are to be established.

Meanwhile, Mayor Robert Mugabe Kakyebezi said Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital was stuck with 20 more unclaimed bodies.  “Mr. Speaker as I speak now I have been informed by the Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital [MRRH] Executive Director Dr. Celestine Barigye that they are stuck with another 20 decomposing bodies at the hospital’s morgue,” Kakyebezi said.

Kyabwisho urged anti-corruption units to investigate allegations that people are asked to pay before they receive the bodies of their loved from the hospital morgue.

“I am told that for one to pick the body from the mortuary, they  have to pay a fee of between Shs 150,000 and Shs 400,000. Meaning that some people will have to abandon the bodied  because they cannot afford. You cannot lose your loved one and again be charged exorbitantly from the government hospital,” noted Kyabwisho.

However, when asked about unclaimed bodies and corruption at the morgue, MRRH’s publicist, Halson Kagure refuted the allegations, saying that the treatment of dead bodies is done free of charge since all the requirements are provided for by government.

“For the matter concerning the total of unclaimed bodies, I need to consult the pathology department but concerning our morgue, all the postmortem services are for free.  When someone dies from the hospital the body is taken to the mortuary, treated, recorded and later hand over to the relatives for burial without any charge because all the things used are provided for by the government,” said Kagure.

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