NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 14 – Five police commanders have been found liable for the death of six-month-old Samantha Pendo at the height of the post-August 2017 election skirmishes.
Kisumu Senior Resident Magistrate Beryl Omollo has asked the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) to investigate Chief Inspector John Kiringi, Inspector Linah Kogei, County Commander Titus Yoma, Senior Superintendents Benjamin Koima and Christopher Maweu with a view of arraigning them for the death.
The magistrate made the recommendation at the end of an inquest into Pendo’s murder on Thursday.
“Based on the principle of command responsibility in the National Police Service (NPS), the commanders in charge of the operation in Nyalenda Estate on the night of August 11, 2017 and early morning of August 12, 2017 are found liable for the death of the deceased,” she ruled.
“I recommend that the ODPP takes necessary actions in accordance to the law,” she advised.
The magistrate said there was sufficient evidence that Pendo succumbed to injuries inflicted on her by members of the police service responding to protests in Nyalenda following the declaration of the presidential election results on August 11, 2017.
“I have evaluated the entire evidence the entire evidence presented before me and I am satisfied that the deceased did not die as a result of natural consequences but due to severe head injury caused by blunt force trauma inflicted on her by the police,” she outlined.
Magistrate Omollo also found General Service Unit (GSU) Chief Inspector Chengo Masha and thirty officers under his command on the night Pendo was murdered to be persons of interest in the case, ordering the Director of Public Prosecution to probe their culpability.
She said sufficient evidence had been adduced to the effect that the GSU officers “intervened with an aggressive militarized response and show of force leading to the death of the baby.”
An autopsy conducted at the Agha Khan Hospital in Kisumu on August 17, 2017, had revealed that Pendo had suffered acute head injuries, her scalp cracking as a result of brutal force by the police.
Dickson Mchana, a government pathologist, concluded that the six-month-old died due to internal bleeding.
“The baby had gaping head fractures. When the scalp opens it relives pressure, otherwise if it would have been enclosed the baby would have died immediately,” he said.
Pendo is among dozens of people who were murdered under contested circumstances as the police responded to sporadic protests in Kisumu as Nairobi’s informal settlements following the declaration of the August 8, 2017 presidential election results.
August 2017 was marked as the deadliest month in three years with at least 66 persons said to have been killed by the police.
Police disputed deaths reported by rights agencies amid condemnation from civil society actors and calls for restraint from the international community.
Other minors killed in the aftermath of the August election include ten-year-old Stephanie Moraa.