It is new and modern, but many think that it is too costly for grieving families to afford. In fact the issue surrounding the cost of a grave yard at the new Rusororo Cemetery---Kigali's main burial place--was recently tabled before parliament for debate.
Kigali residents continue to complain that the charges at the cemetery located in Gasabo district are exorbitant and should be reduced. Members of Parliament also called on the ministry of local government to revise the fees to make it more affordable for ordinary people.
The parliamentary committee on social welfare summoned the Minister of State for Social affairs Dr. Alvera Mukabaramba and Gasabo district officials to explain the high charges at the cemetery.
"We cannot impose huge fees on grieving citizens. There should be a standard charge that does not discriminate citizens against each other," explained MP Esperance Mwiza, who chairs the committee. "The current standard means that people are divided along lines of how poor or how rich...We have received many complaints from citizens," she adds, revealing that the committee had no choice but to summon the people concerned.
The Rusororo Cemetery, which opened last year has three sections; the VIP section where important persons, such as Ministers, top government officials or MPs are buried, the middle class category and the affordable section.
All services inclusive, the VIP section is estimated to cost about Rwf2.9m. That is the amount that was spent on the burial of former minister Christine Nyatanyi. The second section, which has three subsections, costs between Rwf200, 000 and 600, 000. The last category costs Rwf15, 000 but includes no burial ceremonies or services.
Hamiru Gihanga, 70, a resident of Gasabo near the cemetery, says that burial in Rwanda has become an expensive affair, which is only affordable for the rich. The old man who has previously worked in the old Nyamirambo cemetery said that compared to what it was in the past, a family that is not well off might not afford a decent burial because it requires a lot of money.
"Initially one would pay Rwf15, 000 but today it has gone to something unimaginable. You need to do a fundraising to afford a place to bury your person," Mzee Gihanga says. "We recently buried our person, we were charged Rwf50, 000 at Remera Cemetery but now someone else told me that that burying here at Rusororo is Rwf180, 000. It is unbelievable."
According to Minister Mukabaramba, the charges were brought about by the private contractor who provides all services needed for burial, including the hearse, casket, wreath, embalming, body handling and transport.
"It is a one stop burial centre. You get all the same services in the same place hence the cost. In any case, if you calculate the money you would pay for example at Remera, it was more than what you spend at Rusororo because you had to hire every service separately," says the minister. "We are however going to look into the issue and see how we can reduce the cost and create some form of uniformity."
MP Constance Rwaka advised that the government should ensure that the grieving families are not given an extra burden on top of losing their beloved.
However, Vice Mayor of Gasabo District Marie Louise Uwimana defended the new arrangement at the cemetery. "It is important to know that the new cemetery is set up in a planned manner," says Uwimana. "At Rusororo, you are assured that your person will be resting in peace and not in confusion."
Rwanda is also currently debating a draft law which will likely see people to cremated rather than buried. The law, which is being debated in the lower chamber of parliament, if passed will give people the option of having a traditional burial or burning the remains in government-owned incinerators before disposing of the remains in designated cabinets.