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Student lives with bullets lodged in chest years after attack by militia

COUNTIES
By Nathan Ochunge | April 12th 2021

Phanice Weyaga shows her X-ray results confirming that she was shot thrice. She has had to live with two bullets in her chest. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

Phanice Weyaga remembers vividly the events of the night of October 14, 2017.

On this night, bullets fired by a fellow student left her with a life-threatening wound.

While her life was spared, her dream of becoming a lawyer was killed.

Phanice, now 20, was then in Form Two at Lokichogio Mixed Secondary School in Turkana County.

She says a student from South Sudan, who had been suspended for two weeks, came armed that night in a revenge mission against the school.

“He stormed the school in the company of three armed militiamen at around 11pm,” Phanice said.

“They proceeded to one of the girls’ dormitories, where he raped his girlfriend as the three militiamen stood guard.”

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When the boys heard the commotion, they quickly responded and attempted to rescue the girls.

However, they did not know what awaited them. The attackers opened fire, killing some of them.

“Initially, when we heard gunshots outside the dormitory, we thought the police were responding to a criminal incident outside the compound.

“But the gunfire intensified, and four armed men kicked open the door to the dormitory where I was,” Phanice said.

James Ajikon, who was Phanice’s classmate, said when the boys came out, the student from South Sudan went to their dormitory, harassed them and proceeded to the next cubicle where he shot dead two students.

“After 30 minutes, all the students came out of their dormitories and assembled in one place in the school compound. The killer was hiding in the nearby, then he emerged and shot at us as we ran,” Ajikon said. 

“I fell and played dead. He came and looked at me and went away. After an hour, I got some strength and ran towards the fence. When they saw me, they shot at me but I managed to jump over the fence.”

Ajikon – barefoot and clad in a short and vest – walked for a kilometre and met two Kenya Police Reservists. He informed them of the attack.

Phanice Wayeka in 2019 before she was shot thrice by her fellow student. She has had to live with two bullets in her chest after doctors warned the surgery was risky. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

Thugs ran away

“They informed the OCS from Lokichogio Police Station who came where we were. However, they dismissed me as an alarmist until they heard gunshots again,” Ajikon said. 

“That’s when they dashed to the school, shot in the air and the attackers ran away.”

At the end of the ordeal, five students lay dead and 21 others, including Phanice, were left with gunshot wounds.

“I felt some warmth below my left breast and then I saw a lot of blood gushing out before I collapsed. I gained consciousness at Lodiping Health Centre an hour later,” said Phanice.

“We were then referred to hospitals in Kakuma and Lodwar but I was airlifted together with eight other students who had been critically injured to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) in Eldoret by Amref.”

She says at MTRH, the doctors discovered that she had been hit with three bullets at a close range and they were lodged near her heart.

The surgeons removed one bullet and said the other two were too close to the heart and she could die if they were removed.

She spent two months in hospital. 

Dr Joshua Azere, a surgeon at Kakamega County Teaching and Referral Hospital, said if the bullet did not touch vital organs and did not cause a major injury, management of pain should be majorly conservative – not conducting a surgery to remove the bullet.

“You don’t rush to remove the bullet unless you are assured it’s causing more harm to the patient and the danger of leaving it in the body outweighs the danger of doing a surgery on the patient to remove it,” Dr Azere said.

Phanice, who now lives with her mother at Tavan village in Webuye East, Bungoma County, is supposed to go for medical check-ups every three months at MTRH but that has not happened due to lack of money.

For every visit, she is supposed to pay at least Sh10,000, which her mother cannot raise.

The last time she went for a check-up was in August 2019.

She appeals to the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (FIDA) to help her sue the State for compensation so that she can use the money for treatment.

Phanice’s mother, Edith Wasike, says all she wants is money to treat her daughter and if possible, have the bullets in her body removed.

“My daughter does not sleep at night since she experiences a lot of pain.

“I don’t have money for the recommended drugs and that is the reason I opted for painkillers,” says Wasike.

As concerns the attacker, David Nyabuto, the then Turkana West OCPD, told the media after the incident that the student attacker was killed by villagers a day after the attack.

They had set him on fire.

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