The officer who led operations in Nyalenda, during election protests, has admitted that his inaction may have led to the death of baby Samantha Pendo.
Chief Inspector Masha Chengo, however, said his officers were not directly involved in the death, saying they did not access the scene of the incident despite the area being under their jurisdiction.
While testifying on Thursday at an inquest into Pendo’s death, Mr Chengo, who is attached to the GSU Recce Company in Ruiru, admitted that he may not have done enough to ensure that no life was lost during the operations.
“It is true that the life was lost within my jurisdiction. And it is also true that I rightly fall within the bracket of suspects of the baby’s killers,” said Chengo when put to task by counsel representing the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights on his role in the death.
Baby Pendo died on August 15 last year after she was allegedly hit on the head by police officers quelling unrest following the declaration of President Uhuru Kenyatta as the winner of the August 8 presidential election.
Chengo, who was in charge of a platoon deployed to man the Kachok roundabout, said he learnt of the baby’s death several days later when he was summoned by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations in Kisumu to record a statement.
“In fact, for the days we were in Kisumu, we did not receive any complaints from the public over the actions of our officers. We did not use any force on them; neither did we fire any teargas canisters,” he said.
But the officer found himself in a fix when he admitted that although there were gunshots, teargas and screams emanating from the residential areas, he did not bother to find out the cause of the fracas.
“So when you heard all the distress calls, as officers who were charged with the responsibility of protecting life and property, what did you do?” asked Charles Onyango, an LSK counsel?
Chengo replied: “We felt we had achieved our mission of dispersing the demonstrators from the road, so we retreated to our call centre near the mall.”
At one point, Chengo’s testimony conflicted with that of his junior, Emmanuel Muhalia, on whether officers from other units were operating in the area, with Chengo saying there were none while Muhalia said he saw Administration Police, Prisons, and Regular Police officers.
“There were other units patrolling in the estates. In fact, people wondered what kind of GSU officers we were because we were calm,” said Muhalia.
Senior Resident Magistrate Beryl Omollo directed Chengo to present in court a list of officers under his command, an inventory of the arms and equipment they were issued with, and an arms movement record for between August 6 and 18.
“These documents will assist us in the inquest through crosschecking the testimonies and evidence placed before the court,” said Ms Omollo. Hearing resumes on August 2.