Commentary: Deep Anxiety As Maggero’s Body Faces Cremation

Mr. James Wuod Maggero’s body will be cremated on Friday, January 12th ahead of a memorial service scheduled for the same day at Silveral Church in Hellenelund, Stockholm at 15.00 Hrs. His ashes will then be buried.

KSB has established that the wife of the late Mr. Maggero has sent an SMS to the Mzee’s family in Kenya and confirmed that “the body will be cremated on Friday”. Another SMS sent by Maggero’s wife and obtained by KSB said that there will be no viewing of Maggero’s body “because that is what he wanted”.

“Would you please find out how many people are going to speak. Not too many. Not too long. I am going to the countryside for a few days. Send SMS. I check. He will be kremated later. Will know when they have buried the ashes. It is what he wanted”. That was part of the SMS message from Maggero’s wife intercepted by KSB Intelligence Network.

There is both serious concern and desperation among the Kenyan community in Stockholm because the Swedish law prevents anybody who is not a next of kin from intervening in the matter.

The situation has further been exacerbated by the fact that Maggero’s wife and other family members in Sweden have closed down all avenues of communication. The wife is not available on any phone line and this has made it impossible for anybody to enter into discussions which could delay the cremation or the funeral until Maggero’s relatives in Kenya can travel to Sweden to help deal with the crisis.

Dr. Otieno Wariaro, a Kenyan who has been Maggero’s closest friend, has been unable to reach the wife of the late Mzee since news about his death was broken by KSB and the Makozewe SMS Network.

Evidence that the death was a “top secret” within family circles in Sweden was confirmed when it emerged that even Dr. Otieno Wariaro did not know about it. If there are no ulterior motives, Kenyans and close friends are asking why the death of such an important, well-known, respected and elderly member of the community could be converted into a “Top secret” piece of information. 

Apart from the secrecy surrounding his death announcement, elaborate plans to cremate Maggero’s body appear to be the product of “top-notch conspiracy” between members of his family in Sweden who are also trying to keep Maggero’s close relatives in Kenya at bay as far as funeral arrangements are concerned.

Before any relative knew about Mr. Maggero’s death, arrangements for his cremation had already been finalized without the involvement of the late Mzee’s relatives in Kenya. Secondly, news that there will be a memorial service at Hellenelund in Stockholm was released by the family three hours after “the cat was let out of the bag” that Maggero was dead.

Sources in the know have informed KSB that the family was “very upset” to discover that Kenyans have gathered wind that Mr. Maggero is dead. Is this a normal sequence of events in the wake of disturbing news that a Kenyan elder of Mr. Maggero’s caliber has passed away in Stockholm?

It is not clear whether Mr. Maggero left a will that his body be cremated or buried in Sweden and this is an issue which his close friends had wanted to take up with the family so that the matter can be examined from a different perspective. Suspicion is building that the conspiracy to cremate the late Mzee’s body with disturbing alacrity is based on the strategy that once this happens, there will be no further circumlocution about Maggero’s final resting place.

Mr. Oyuga Odada, a Kenyan who has been very close to Mr. Maggero, has met Maggero’s brother in Kenya and the family has called for a delay of the funeral so that a family member can travel to Sweden to attend the event.

From the secrecy with which the family is handling the matter in Sweden, and given the fact that Maggero’s wife has closed down all communication channels, it appears as though the family in Sweden is not interested in allowing Maggero’s relatives in Kenya to get involved in his funeral arrangements and this is the focal point of multiple suspicions.

We ask: Even if Mr. Maggero has to be buried in Sweden or cremated, why keep away his immediate relatives in Kenya from viewing the body, paying their last respects and attending the funeral in a final farewell? How inhumane can Maggero’s family be so as to deny the late Mzee’s relatives in Kenya and friends in Sweden the opportunity of a “final respect” of the departed soul before the late Mzee’s body is reduced to ashes? 

The terrible pain Maggero’s family in Sweden is suffering is the same pain his relatives in Kenya are going through. Mr. Maggero used to travel home several times a year and was in very close contact with his relatives. When he was finally admitted to hospital, he had come from Kenya where he had fallen sick.

Through Kesfa, the late Mzee was running several projects in Kenya, a sign that he had not forgotten the suffering of his people back home. From an African perspective, the manner in which the family is planning to dispose of the body in the name of “privacy” amounts to disposing of the body as if Mr. Maggero was a rabbit dog who does not deserve a burial (in Sweden or in Kenya) but whose body has to be cremated in absolute violation of Maggero’s cultural provisions opposed to cremation of dead bodies. If Maggero’s wish was to be cremated, why hasn’t his relatives not obtained this important piece of information, given the big potential for controversy?

By keeping away Maggero’s relatives out of funeral arrangements and planning to cremate his body in direct opposition to Maggero’s culture, the family in Sweden is committing a serious cultural crime whose consequences cannot be quantified. If Maggero gave a go-ahead for his body to be cremated, it is the responsibility of his family in Sweden to involve Maggero’s relatives in Kenya in the process. This has not happened. Why?

Maggero’s children are mature enough and if they bought the current funeral strategy out of ignorance or because they have “embraced the Swedish culture”, A Kenyan elder said that “the only responsibility of Maggero’s relatives will be to warn them in advance” that they will have to pay heavily some day.

In fact, the plan plays negatively on matrimonial relationships between Black Africans and White Swedes because what it means is that if you are a Kenyan male married to a white Swede, you need to borrow a leaf from the current situation facing the late Maggero’s body. Your relatives or friends might have no influence when you die because that is the “white way” of doing things.

The issue is creating unnecessary divisions and negative perceptions of mixed marriages in Stockholm, perceptione which could be curtailed. It is enhancing unnecessary and negative stereotypical views of mixed marriages that has it that “once you marry a Mzungu (white European), you will eventually end up the Mzungu way”. Could the idea of keeping away Maggero’s relatives from the funeral arrangements and the plan to cremate his body be the typical Mzungu way of conducting this kind of business?

Nobody seem to be opposing the wishes of Mr. Maggero or his immediate family in Sweden in relation to his funeral. The main problem is the exclusion of Maggero’s relatives from funeral arrangements.

Regardless of the advanced stage of Maggero’s family plans with respect to the funeral, the cultural voices within the Kenyan community have been calling for sensitivity especially on the question of the involvement of Maggero’s relatives in the funeral arrangements. According to a Luo elder who has spoken to KSB, if the plan continues as it is, then the explanation will be that Maggero “shall have paid the ultimate price of marrying a white woman in Sweden”.    

Mr. Maggero died on 3rd January and, just like Kenyans in Stockholm, family members in Kenya knew about his death on 7th January. The news was obtained accidentally by a Kenyan who happened to have been at the hospital where Mr. Maggero had been admitted and who decided that he could check on the old man. Is there something the family is trying to maneuver through an elaborate information black-out? Why wasn’t the news broken immediately by the family? Was it Maggero’s wish that news about his death be kept secret so that he could be cremated in secret and as quickly as possible?

If Mr. Maggero’s remains are to be taken care of by Friday, indications are that his relatives in Kenya will miss the event and this is another pointer that the family in Sweden is unduly insensitive to both the feelings and cultural expectations of both Maggero’s relatives in Kenya and his close Kenyan friends in Sweden especially those from the Luo community.

At the time of his death, Mr. Maggero was a Kenyan citizen. The only string of hope left before his body is converted into ashes is an intervention by the Kenyan Embassy in Stockholm. From intelligence gathered by KSB, there is no possibility that any of Mr. Maggero’s relatives will make it to Sweden before Friday.

Within the bounds of Swedish and International law, the Embassy has a right to intervene over the matter on behalf of Maggero’s relatives in Kenya especially in a situation of conflict. This is a race against time and what the Kenyan Embassy should do now is to take immediate and urgent contacts with the Swedish authorities and request for a stay of funeral arrangements pending communication from Maggero’s family in Kenya regarding their position. It is only the Embassy that holds the power to represent Maggero’s relatives over the matter and if the institution cannot do so, it shall have failed in its responsibility of taking care of the interest of a Kenyan citizen who has passed away in Sweden.

It could be correct that Maggero might have left a will that his remains be disposed of in Sweden. In the same token, Maggero’s immediate relatives in Kenya have a legal right to participate in plans for his funeral and it is on this basis that the Kenyan Embassy should intervene. To keep out Mr. Maggero’s family out of the funeral arrangements by exploiting the advantage of distance is not only deplorable on the part of Maggero’s family in Sweden but also barbaric, despicable and totally unacceptable.

If Mr. Maggero’s remains are taken care of in Sweden without the involvement of his relatives back home, it will go down in history as one of the most callous and brutal act to have been witnessed by the Kenyan community in Stockholm since Kenyans began immigrating to this cold country called Sweden many decades ago.

Okoth Osewe