Jitters as Kisumu slums recount police brutality

Azimio la Umoja supporters display a bullet cartridge after a man was shot dead during the anti-government protests on July 19, 2023.[Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

A wave of anxiety is sweeping through Kisumu City's estates that bore the brunt of police brutality last week, as residents recounted the horrific experience they went through at the hands of police officers.

Although Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition has cancelled plans for the demonstrations that were set to take place today, residents believe the planned vigils are shrouded in mystery.

There are fears the vigils are likely to spiral into chaos in Nyalenda, Nyamasaria, Manyatta and Kondele areas that suffered the most as police dispersed protestors.

A stroll around the estates and interviews with a section of the residents established they are yet to overcome the trauma they claim they were subjected to by law enforcement. Residents claim the smell of pain, bitterness and agony remains written all over.

While some claim they are on a recovery path, others claimed the anger from the mistreatment they were subjected to is still fresh and are not ruling out peaceful protests for those who were shot and battered by police officers.

They claimed lighting candles would not be enough to push for justice to the horror they were subjected to by law enforcement officers.

At Nyalenda, Emmarculate Ngeza says she is still distraught at the events that happened to them last week. She said she had never seen a police officer fire a gun before but experienced it first hand last week.

A few metres from her house, she claims she witnessed a young girl fall to the ground in a pool of blood after being shot. The loud bursts of gunfire and pints of smoke rising up from the barrel of a police officers rifle made her fall to the ground as she hid inside her house.

"It was horrific. I am glad the protests have been called off," she says.

Ngeza claimed she saw police officers kick her neighbours' doors before pulling them out and assaulting them. "There were screams all over, and police officers were also shouting," she adds.

For Evans Ochieng, however, he was not lucky. He said police officers raided their house and assaulted him before leaving to hunt for more residents.  "The police are meant to protect us against violence and keep us safe, but they are the ones who made us feel the opposite last week, and I don't think I will ever have faith in them again," said Ochieng.

Despite the fear of a possible return of law enforcement to quell protests in the area, Ochieng claimed the events of last week has angered many residents, and they will light candles and match peacefully.

"Whatever happened last week was wrong, and we must voice our opinions to ensure that those in charge of the security agencies understand that you cannot pull someone from his house and beat him up," he said.

Joseph Obala, who was shot in the thigh, is a distraught man. Although he is recovering after a bullet stuck in his thigh was removed, he believes the police violated his rights.

What had been another day at his house in Kasawino turned chaotic moments after he went outside to fetch water. He claims he heard a loud burst and saw his neighbour who was outside his house, collapse in a pool of blood.

"Before I could comprehend what had happened, I was also shot in the thigh. I do not know what happened after that, but I found myself lying in a hospital bed," he said. 

While some are still hospitalised, others have already been discharged and are recovering at their homes, albeit with fear of a possible return of another wave of attacks.

Jane Apondi, who operates a food business at Nyalenda claimed they are still in fear. "People are unhappy with how police assaulted residents in their houses with Rungus and guns, and there is still a high chance that people will protest even after the vigils," she said.

Kisumu-based activist Boniface Akach said residents of Nyalenda are still traumatised by the chaos and the manner in which the police handled the situation. Fred Hainga, a shopkeeper, is hopeful that President William Ruto and Azimio boss Raila Odinga will embrace dialogue.