15 November 2012

Rwanda: New Law Allows Burial Outside Public Cemeteries

Parliament has passed amendments to a law governing cemeteries, not compelling families with enough land to bury their dead at public cemeteries.

The organisation and use of cemeteries act of 2001 did not have such provisions, but the amendment indicates that families should first seek district authorisation to bury their loved ones in family land.

The development follows concerns about high burial costs.

A grave with a tombstone and add-ons at Rusororo cemetery goes for an average of Rwf 180,000.

Recent land reforms have given more guarantees to land tenure security rights to Rwandans than before.

"Someone with enough land can seek permission to have a family graveyard...," MP Esperance Mwiza, the chairperson of the social affairs committee told the House on Tuesday.

Article 27 of the amended law states;"upon reasoned request by an individual or legal entity and on the basis of valid reasons, the District Mayor may give special authorisation to bury in a place not provided for in this law, the Minister in charge of Local Government and the Council president shall be informed thereof."

Under the law, the minister in charge of local government shall determine requirements for interment in places of worship.

Also, the amended law prohibits burial of a dead body unless permission is granted by the Executive Secretary of a cell or his/her deputy.

This was however challenged by some legislators; others saying it is time wasting.

"If a doctor has issued a death certificate...what do cell officials have to do with burial issues?"MP Landrada Umuraza.

Under the law an individual grave shall have no more than two and half metres (2,5m) of length, eighty centimetres (80cm) of width, and two meters (2m) of depth.

Article 13 of the amended law says taxes to maintain cemeteries shall be determined by the district councils on request by the Executive Secretary of the concerned sector and after approval by the Sector Council.

"It is prohibited to graze animals in cemeteries, commit indecent acts, throw rubbish and other wastes therein or commit any other degrading acts which may humiliate the deceased," Article 25 stipulates.

A majority of the MPs were concerned that even the newly opened 12 hectare cemetery in Gasabo would fill up soon and the general high cost of graves in Kigali City.

The cemetery, which opened last year, has an average capacity of 13,200 graves and is projected to be full in 18 years.

Remera cemetery which had been in operation since 2003 was closed last year with 9,525 dead buried there.

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