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Citizen Weekly

Thursday, 8 January 2015


Julius Ochieng is quite familiar with Jaramogi Oginga Odinga family graveyard situated at Kang'o Ka-Jaramogi home in Nyamira, Siaya County. Yesterday he led five of his colleagues in digging the third grave in the yard, the grave where former Prime Minister Raila Odinga's son, Fidel will be laid to rest on Saturday. In 1996, he was the team leader of the 'squad' which dug the grave of Raila's sister Margret Akinyi Oginga at the same point. Three years later he led the same team to dig the grave of Shadrack Osewe Oginga, Jaramogi's last born son. However 20 years into the business of digging graves, Ochieng considers Fidel's the most tricky and touchy grave he has ever handled in his life. He says being that Fidel is a prominent member of the society, the work requires perfection as most eyes are focused on all the burial preparations. This makes him and his group to be extra careful so as to avoid embarrassing not only the family but also friends and the entire nation. "This is a serious funeral and we would wish to do a perfect job which show respect for the fallen young hero," said Ochieng. At the time of his demise, Fidel was not only Ochieng's age mate but also a close relative and a friend who never visited the Bondo home without leaving him with few coins for appreciating their closeness. The business of digging graves is never an easy task to be accepted by many people, Ochieng has however taken the task as his source of income and has no hopes of quitting. See Also: ODM cautions social media users The father of three who is also a distant relative to Jaramogi family was recruited into the business in the 1990s by a friend. Having dropped out of school at form three, he ventured into casual jobs which included digging trenches, sewer and underground water lines as well as farming activities. "A friend once invited me to accompany him in digging a grave at the neighbourhood and I found it well paying making me to love it," said Ochieng. After several contracts on the same, he became an expert and could be called in to take such jobs in the village.
n 1996 he bravely took up the job to help in the digging of the grave of Akinyi, Jaramogi's daughter, a job he did without pay together with his colleagues. "I am a relative at this place and I cannot demand for pay. I do it as part of contribution and obligation as a member of the family," Ochieng told the Standard during the final preparation of Fidel's burial site. He then grabbed the attention of many clients a situation which has made him become the main man in that field in the entire village. As the news of the death of Fidel filled the air; he was among the many Kenyans who bore the pain of losing a friend, age mate and a relative. Yesterday he led his squad into preparing Fidel's final resting place and as a sign of paying tribute to his hero. Ochieng's squad charges Sh400 per feet for a standard grave measuring eight by four feet. However the squad has declined to demand for any pay for Fidel's grave which took them over eight hours to complete. "We do not need to get paid for this work, however there must be some traditional undertakings which must be done for example some meal with chicken in the diet and traditional brew to 'bless' the grave," he said.