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Nyalenda's night of terror leaves trail of deaths, agony

FEATURES

After three days of running battles between July 19 and 21, police in Kisumu regrouped to strategise how to punish those who gave them trouble during the Azimio protests.

In the dead of the night, they descended on Nyalenda estate, one of the hotbeds of the protests, broke gates and doors of those who refused to open, before unleashing violence that included beating and shootings, leaving tens gravely injured.

 Anti-riot police in Kisumu

Sixteen of them had succumbed to their wounds at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital where they were rushed to.

The rogue officers did not spare even the innocents who never took part in the protests. Among the dead are brothers William Amulele and Brian Oniang’o, who never took part in the demos as they were at work with the violence having subsided.

William, 24, was working as a waiter at a Kisumu restaurant while his younger brother aged 22, was hoping to join college to pursue a diploma course in plant operation engineering but had just landed a casual job at a supermarket.

A few weeks before the senseless attack on July 21, the brothers had moved into a single-room rented house next to their mother’s house who is struggling to make ends meet.

Distraught and desolate

When the Nairobian visited their home, their mother, Everline Akhala sat forlornly sobbing uncontrollably as she stared at photographs of her two sons.

Their loss is too much to bear. Not even the presence of two women consoling the 41-year-old mother could uplift her low spirits.

Everline is distraught and feels desolate. The death of William and Brian has taken a toll on her deteriorating health.

The photos are a reminder of fond memories of her bubbling boys who died in the most unfortunate circumstances. William and Brian died at the prime age when their future was starting to take shape.

The two brothers died days apart while undergoing treatment at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH) intensive care unit for wounds sustained from blunt objects. They had been taken to the facility on the night of July 22. Brian died on the same night while his elder brother passed on four days later on July 26.

 Brothers William Amulele and Brian Oniang'o lie side by side while undergoing treatment at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital. [Harold Odhiambo]

“If only I could turn back time,” mumbles Everline amid sobs, tears flowing down her cheeks.

Two women attempt to console her and wipe the stream of tears with a white shawl - but the more the women attempt to clear her face, the more the tears roll down.

In a flash, it is easy to feel the pain that has overwhelmed the mother as she holds close to her chest the two pictures. Her eyes appear red, tired and swollen after crying for several days.

Everline is eager to share her pain with anyone who cares to listen to her heartbreaking story. But as soon as she little gathers the strength to speak out, the courage fizzles out and tears take over. On the fateful day, the distraught mother recounts her failed attempts to rescue William and Brian from police brutality including putting her own body on the line by suffering beatings she received from the officers.

Everline narrated how her life changed abruptly on the last day of anti-government protests when the police descended in the slum pulling out her sons from their rented house before mercilessly assaulting the siblings with kicks, gun butts and rungus.

According to the woman, William and Brian never left their house to participate in the demonstrations. Little did they anticipate death would come knocking at their doorsteps.

“At around 3 pm, we heard neighbours screaming as police officers walked from door to door and beat up anyone they found,” she recalls.

Wrong place, wrong time

For her sons, it was a case of being at the wrong place and the wrong time when police unleashed a wave of terror, breaking into their single-room hovel.  

Everline stormed out when a neighbour screamed out, alerting her that William and Brian were in trouble.

“I heard a neighbour screaming and shouting for me to come out. When I rushed out, I found Brian and William being beaten up by a dozen of police officers. I kneeled down and pleaded with the officers but my pleas fell on deaf ears,” she narrates.

She says the officers turned on her and started assaulting her as they chased her away with kicks and blows.

“I screamed loudly and several women joined me in screaming at the anti-riot police officers who then left,” she recounts.

When she rushed to check on her two sons, all of them were lying unconscious and in a pool of blood. With the help of neighbours, she rushed them JOOTRH for treatment.

They were admitted to the facility’s ICU and lay side by side on two beds as doctors struggled to save their lives.

A neighbour who witnessed the assault recounted how armed police officers broke into the brothers’ house.

“I heard someone kick the gate and shouted, tuvunje ama mtafungua (open the gate or we break in). I moved to my window and saw more than ten police officers in uniform with rungus and guns. They were trying to break the gate leading to Brian and William’s house,” she narrated.

She claimed they eventually broke the gate, got in and pulled the two boys from their house and started beating them up with batons.

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