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Why cremation is rapidly increasing in Kenya?

More Kenyans are opting for cremation as opposed to traditional burials.

The death of Kenyan former attorney general Sir Charles Njonjo in the first week of January 2022 came as a shock to many.

Having left 3 weeks to his 102nd birthday, the lawyer died of Pneumonia in his Muthaiga home on Sunday morning.

Surprisingly, within a few hours of his demise, the body was cremated at Kariorkor Crematorium. The quick turn of events left many wondering.

“He was very clear about instructions, not just in life but in death. Part of his instructions was that we cremate him almost immediately after his death”, his son-in-law Carey Ngini said.

More cremations

In the recent past, there has been an increase in the number of people being cremated in the country. The late Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore was also cremated in 2019.

Cremation by definition refers to disposing of dead bodies by burning the body over a furnace of intense heat and open flames.

The process, however, is performed in a cremation chamber where the dead body is placed in an appropriate casket or cardboard container.

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Steps of cremation process:
  1. Authorization is needed by the next of kin or legal spouse.
  2. The family of the deceased makes a booking prior. The family should have a specific date ready, however, if the date is booked for another body they are given a range of available days.
  3. The crematorium is cleaned and the source of power prepared. It can either use electricity, diesel, or firewood.
  4. On the cremation date, the body arrives, and the family conducts a short service. The body is then wheeled to the cremation chamber.
  5. At this point, it is the decision of the family to either have the body cremated in an open or closed kiln. Families can also choose who lights up the fire.
  6. The body is burnt inside a coffin and takes about 90 minutes to be completed.
  7. When the process is done and the ashes are ready, they are handed over to the family on the same day or the day after.
  8. Most crematoriums have maximum timelines to collect the ashes, if time collapses the ashes, which are usually less than a kilogram, are scattered in the crematorium grounds.

For a body to be fully burnt, the furnace needs to be between 1000 – 2000 degrees Celsius for about an hour to two.

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Why choose cremation?

It is very affordable – Kariorkor crematorium is one of the 18 crematoriums in the country. On average, a family will have to spend KSh. 10,000 – 20,000 for cremation charges.

On the contrary, a family conducting a traditional burial ceremony may spend up to a million shilling. This is quite expensive compared to cremation.

It is an eco-friendly option – Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, an environmental activist, choose to be cremated for environmental preservation. Cremation has fewer chemicals involved.

Reduction of burial spaces – with a huge population dwelling in urban settings, people are faced with cemeteries that are already overcrowded. For instance, the Langata cemetery was declared full in the past.