Man killed by police as he helped his mother cook

Silas Wambua. He was shot when police officers opened fire to contain a rowdy crowd in Mathare. [Courtesy]

The chaotic demolitions in Mathare on Wednesday resulted in a tragic and gruesome loss of life in an instant.

For days, the community had been crying for justice as they faced the demolition of their homes, but for one family, it is a double tragedy. They are not only losing their home but also mourning the death of their kin.

Silas Wambua, a 25-year-old resident, was killed at the place he called home for decades.

Wambua, a fourth born in the family of five, died by the bullet at a small shanty where his mother sold mandazi to sustain their lives.

Witnesses say police officers opened fire to control the chaos that erupted during the demolition exercise but one went straight into Wambua’s body.

“I have lost the pillar of my life. Why did it have to be my son?” posed his mother Rosalina Ngila amid sobs.

“I cannot envision a future without him.” Wambua’s father, Zablon Ngila, also expressed devastation by the loss.

“They were in the middle of cooking mandazi when they heard the bulldozers. His mother asked him to help close the shop and bring the cooking utensils back to the house. He had just taken a few utensils inside and was removing the umbrella when we heard a loud bang. We rushed to him and found him fighting for his life. He had been shot in the chest,” the father recounted.

Wambua was pronounced dead on arrival at the Blue House hospital where the family rushed him. Detectives from Pangani Police Station visited the scene and promised an investigation.

Human rights organisations  demanded swift investigations and accountability for the implicated officers.

“This is a blatant violation of human rights. The poor of this country are always on the receiving end. Justice must be served and the killer must be brought to book,” said Frederick Ojiro of Haki Africa

The human rights group has also called for a halt to the demolitions until a proper resettlement plan is established for the affected families.

“You cannot correct a wrong by creating another one. Where does the government plan to relocate these families? Where will mothers and young children spend the night?” Ojiro questioned. The organisation also criticised the use of live ammunition to manage the situation, calling it “utterly unacceptable.”

Wambua’s body is currently at the City mortuary, awaiting post-mortem scheduled for next Monday.

Meanwhile, scores of families remain stranded after the demolitions, which followed heavy rains in the city.

“They are destroying our homes and killing us to scare us away. Why are the poorest taxpayers always targeted in their own country?” posed Ken Olindi, a Mathare resident.

For the Wambua family, the path to rebuilding will be long, but the emotional healing will take even longer.

The ongoing demolitions are in line with a government directive requiring residents living near rivers to relocate to higher ground due to flooding risks. Despite the government’s notice, many residents say they were caught off guard.

Alternative homes

Agnes, a hairdresser in Mathare, described the devastation she faced when she returned from work to find her house destroyed.

“It was unbelievable. I couldn’t salvage anything. Everything was gone. The government should have provided alternative homes before the destruction. Where do I take my little ones? How do I start anew with empty pockets?” Agnes Muthee said.

At the start of the demolitions, government spokesperson Isaac Mwaura explained:

“These are the same people who are dying in floods. Sometimes, when the water subsides, people return to their buildings. As a government, we must be clear and categorical.”

Mathare, located in the Eastlands of Nairobi, is a vast neighbourhood, part of it built on marginal lands along river valleys.