19 October 2018

Kenya: We Were Asleep When Baby Pendo Was Clobbered, Police Officers Tell Probe Team

Anti-riot police officers deployed to quell protests in Kisumu's Nyalenda Estate where Baby Samantha Pendo was brutally clobbered during post-election skirmishes last year had retired to bed by the time the incident happened, an inquest has heard.

In an attempt to exonerate themselves from the baby's murder on the night of August 11, 2017, two police witnesses - constables who were deployed to ensure security in the estate - told an inquest investigating the child's death on Thursday that they had already left the scene on the fateful night.

During a cross examination by Kenya National Commission on Human Rights lawyer Charles Onyango at the Kisumu Law Courts, constables Jacob Omar and Evans Kibet shocked the inquest when they said they went to sleep at around 1am even residents continued to riot in the estate and gunshots rent the air. "Why did you neglect your duties of restoring peace in the area and go to sleep?" posed Mr Onyango.

CONTROVERSIAL RESULTS

That claim varies from previous senior officers who appeared before the inquest and who said they had deployed officers for a round-the-clock security operation including clearance of road barricades.

The police constables told the team yesterday that they were given orders by their senior commander, Mr Titus Yoma - the then Kisumu County police boss - to work all night.

Baby Pendo became the poster of police brutality when, at six months old, she died from injuries sustained in a raid by the police who clobbered her head. This inquest, ordered by the Director of Public Prosecutions, is supposed to find out what happened and who should take responsibility.

The incident happened on August 11, the day the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission announced the controversial presidential results. The Supreme Court would later nullified the vote.

According to the testimony given by the constables yesterday, they only cleared 150m of the road and went back to Vic hotel, Kisumu County.

CONFLICTING TESTIMONIES

The Kisumu-Nairobi road was closed for one week and it is reported that Governor Anyang Nyong'o's convoy could not use the road despite the presence of over 30 officers commanded to keep it safe and open for civilians.

The constables also gave conflicting testimonies as one claimed they were attacked by the residents and the other denied ever being pelted with stones.

The witnesses also gave conflicting accounts of where the gunshots were heard on that fateful night. Mr Onyango termed the witness accounts unreliable.

The two officers were also on the spot for not returning some of their security items after the operation was concluded. They only returned their firearms and retained batons, body armour and shield which they returned on September 30, 2018, according to the Arms Movement Register.

Mr Kibet had a hard time explaining why he retained some of the items. "My work serial number is 108738 and not 104236 as stated in the book shown before the court and therefore I cannot be held responsible," he said.

FINAL RULING

The officers further defended their move to retain the items, saying they were still on standby in case they were called to quell riots elsewhere.

They went stated that they were called to an operation at Boni forest, but failed to prove this as they did not produce any documents before the court. They also could not show how they used the items they retained during their work in Boni.

Senior Resident Magistrate Beryl Omollo summoned Government Analyst R K Lang'at to appear before the court on Friday to help with the inquest.

Two investigative officers are also expected in court to present their findings. This will mark the end of witness accounts and thereafter the final ruling will be given.

The assault on Baby Pendo by people suspected to be police officers was reported at Nyalenda Police Post by the father, Mr Joseph Abanja, on August 16, a day after the six-month-old succumbed to head injuries at Aga Khan Hospital in Kisumu.

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