Burundian Community in Malawi has demanded explanation from the host government on why authorities at the Ministry of Health and Lilongwe City Council buried a Canadian of Burundian origin – Willy Léonard Niyomwungere – without the knowledge of the community and the family.
Niyomwungere, who was aged 45, died of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in Lilongwe last week barely a few days after jetting into the country to see his wife.
He was the second to die of of the virus in Malawi after a 51-year-old Malawian of Indian origin in Blantyre some days earlier.
Refuge rights activist and executive member of the Burundian Community in Malawi, Innocent Magambi, told Nyasa Times in an exclusive interview that they were disappointed with the decision the Malawi Government had taken to bury Niyomwungere without notifying his family and the community both in Malawi and Canada where the deceased was working.
“We have presented our concerns to the Ministry of Health because as a human being and an artist who was well-known and loved in Burundi and also a citizen of Canada, we were disappointed that the Ministry of Health decided to bury him without informing the country of Burundi, Canada or even family because he had a passport. He could be traced. So, we are concerned that none of those were contacted or told before this decision [to bury him] was taken,” said Magambi.
He said it took the Burundian Community in Malawi to seek information from the authorities regarding the gravesite where the remains of their kinsman had been interred.
“We are concerned that there was no dignity,” added Magambi, who is also the executive director of There Is Hope – an organization that fights for the rights and welfare of refugees in Malawi.
He said Community would consider asked the Malawi Government to allow them exhume his body so that he is accorded proper burial in in Canada where he was resident and naturalized.
However, Magambi admitted that they could be risking their own lives should they be given that freedom.
“That’s why we are very much concerned that the Malawi Government took the decision to bury him without consulting us. Otherwise, we could have found alternative means to repatriate his body to Canada. Niyomwungere was a man who had everything, including life insurance. We believe that could have covered the cost of repatriating his remains to Cananda,” he said.
Officials from the Ministry of Health and Lilongwe City Council said they were locked in meetings to plan for the impending lockdown when Nyasa Times sought to get their comment on the matter.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :