Rwanda: investors avoid ‘risky’ cremation facilities

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The local government ministry attributed the lack of cremation facilities to the lack of investor appetite for such ventures.

This is due to the fact that there is no demand for such facilities among Rwandans thus increasing their risk profile.

“There have been discussions with potential investors, and they have expressed fears that these facilities are not a viable investment option,” Jean Marie Vianney Gatabazi, Minister of Local Government, told lawmakers on Tuesday.

He answered questions about cemeteries and other burial sites.

Deputies had summoned the minister to ask him why, eight years after the promulgation of the law determining the organization and use of cemeteries, cremation and burial facilities remain rare.

Article 31 of the law provides that the district council may designate one or more sites for the cremation of corpses only.

Such a decision may clarify whether the cremation of corpses should be carried out only at those sites for the whole district or for its part.

The law stipulates in article 28 that cremation is one of the modes of burial accepted in Rwanda.

For a body to be cremated, an authorization is required from the Executive Secretary of the Sector or, in his absence, by his deputy. Authorization must be requested by the person responsible for the burial of the deceased, and indicate the modalities, time and place to proceed with the cremation.

The authorization request is accompanied by a certificate issued by an approved doctor indicating the cause of death.

However, article 29 of the same law provides that in the event of suspicion that the deceased was the victim of a crime, the authorization to cremate the body is only granted after an autopsy.

Gatabazi said Rwandans have not yet been settled because people have not yet adopted cremation as a mode of burial.

“Ordinary people assume that the cremation of bodies is done by burning firewood or charcoal … but it is done through technology that requires a large investment,” he said.

Save land and costs?

MP Eugene Mussolini said cremation of the body was cheaper and consistent with efficient land use.

Demand for land is increasing in order to pave the way for infrastructure projects such as classrooms, roads, hospitals and human settlements, he said.

Therefore, he added, there is an urgent need to change the way people are buried.

“Considering Kigali, if the Rusororo cemetery is full, which could happen soon, the government will have to spend around Rwf 1 billion to buy more land [for cemetery]. Still, an incinerator can cost around RWF 100 million, ”he said.

MP Elisabeth Mukamana said the increase in population and land use requires other means of burial, such as cremation.

Mukamana suggested that a study be conducted to gather information from Rwandans on how they perceive cremation and to comprehensively identify the challenges and how to address them based on evidence.

Gatabazi said based on the information available, burial costs could reach Rwf 3 million and Rwf 4 million in some cases, pointing to the cost of land and the funeral service vehicle needed for the burial.

He said there was a need to change the mindset of Rwandans on cremation, stressing that a person can have their loved one’s body cremated and keep their ashes [in a container] at home and pay homage to them there.

Meanwhile, the minister said there are 1,439 cemeteries across the country.

Plans are underway to increase the number of cemeteries in the country’s 30 districts and to step up awareness so that people embrace burial in cemeteries.

Some people still prefer to bury their loved ones in their homes partly because cemeteries are located far away from them.

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