Puzzle of Nairobi man who ‘returned from the dead’ weeks after burial

Business came to a standstill in a Nairobi slum on Friday evening, when a man believed to have been buried in Kisii County three weeks ago returned.

Relatives, boda boda operators and other residents who led mourners at 28-year-old Meshack Ondiek Nyambane’s funeral ceremony were left in shock after he returned to Mukuru-Hazina slum in South B division, Starehe sub-county.

Hundreds of citizens crowded the police headquarters there, hoping to get answers from either the South B assistant county commissioner, chief, assistant chief or officers at the South B police station.

Police officers had a tough time controlling the crowd as residents shoved their way through, eager to witness what they termed a miracle.

Calm was restored upon the arrival of Makadara police boss Judith Nyongesa, who was phoned by South B Station Commander Robert Mbui.

Residents of Mukuru-Hazina slum in South B, Nairobi, gather outside South B Police Station on March 25, 2023, following the return of Meshack Ondiek Nyambane, who was buried three weeks before. Photo credit: Sammy Kimatu | Nation Media Group

Ms Nyongesa told Nation.Africa that the man, a boda boda rider, was arrested and jailed for blocking motorists and other road users in the city centre on February 14..

She said Mr Nyambane was apprehended by county askaris and later taken to a City Hall court, where he was sentenced to two months in prison after pleading guilty to the offence.

The man presented a document showing he had committed an office, had served his time in prison and had been released from Ruiru Prison, she added.

Mr Nyongesa spent part of his sentence at the Nairobi West Prison in Langata before being transferred to Ruiru Prison. He said he was released on Friday after completing his sentence.

“I was coming back to start my boda boda job. I used to operate on the South B/South C route before my arrest,” he said.

It was after these confirmations that made it clear to Mr Nyambane’s family and friends that they had buried the wrong body.

However, Mr Nyambane’s cousin, Mr Paul Magara, a 33-year-old warder at the Industrial Area prison said his brother positively identified the body.

Mr Magara said the family reported Mr Nyambane to the area police station and that they searched for him for more than a week. They then informed his wife in Saudi Arabia of his disappearance.

City Mortuary later contacted them, showing them a body that had been retrieved from a sewer.

“The body was badly damaged, as if it had been burned with acid. His elder brother identified the body,” Mr Magara said.

Kennedy Magara (left) and Paul Magara, relatives of boda boda rider Meshack Ondiek Nyambane, during their interviews at South B Police Station on March 25, 2023.
Photo credit: Sammy Kimatu | Nation Media Group

Another family member, 43-year-old Kennedy Magara, said they then prepared for two days to transport the body back home for the burial.

“Boda Boda operators participated in large numbers and money was raised for funeral costs due to the condition of the body – so that it did not get damaged further,” he said.

He added that he chaired the funeral committee in Nairobi and that the ceremony took place at Nyambaterere village in Nyacheki division, Nyamache sub-county on March 3.

Mr Nyambane’s wife flew from Saudi Arabia to join their two daughters in sending him off.

Commander Nyongesa said police are investigating the matter.

“I have contacted the Nyamache sub-county police chief so that police procedures will take their course. I urge members of the public to be keen while identifying bodies to avoid such mistakes,” he said.

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