Baby Pendo's mother now pursues State for compensation

Family members stand by the coffin bearing the remains of Baby Samantha Pendo during a mass at St. Joseph Catholic church in Kisumu on August 25, 2017. [Denish Ochieng/Standard]

The mother of Samantha Pendo, the six-month-old baby killed by police during the post-2017 poll skirmishes, has sued the State.

Lancer Ochieng, in court documents seen by The Standard, argues that her baby had nothing to do with the violence, and did not deserve to die at the hands of police.

In the documents, Ms Ochieng explains how police officers threw a teargas canister into their house.

To avoid choking, Lancer and her husband Joseph Abanja ran out. At the time, she was holding baby Pendo close to her chest when an officer turned towards her and hit the child on the head.

“It was a peaceful night at around 1am or thereabouts. Police officers, without any justifiable reason, stormed into the petitioner’s house and threw a canister,” the papers filed by lawyer Joan Neto read in part.

Ochieng explains in the court documents that on the fateful night, she prepared a meal for her family, after which they all went to bed shortly after 9pm.

At around 1am, on August 12, her family was woken by noise in the neighbourhood.

“My immediate neighbour was shouting, pleading with someone not to beat him up. He kept saying he was not among the protesters who were throwing stones,” Pendo’s mother narrates.

“I woke my husband; we were all shaken. Suddenly we heard a bang on the door. The people outside were asking us to open but we did not. Our door was pushed and it flung open.”

That is when the canister was thrown into the house, forcing the family out.

Court papers say the officers first beat up Mr Abanja as his wife watched, then turned to her despite her pleas that she was carrying an infant.

“One of the officers struck me on the hand with a club. Another one hit me on the buttocks. While I was trying to recover from the blows, another one hit Pendo on the head with a club. The blow was so hard that the baby did not even cry,” Lancer remembers.

After that blow, Baby Pendo’s head became swollen. She started foaming at the mouth. Lancer pleaded with the officers to help take the baby to hospital. Instead, they instructed her to “carry out first aid” on the minor.

Lancer outlines negligence on the part of the police. She claims that they used excessive force on her family despite family members posing no danger.

Family’s safety

She continues to argue that police did not consider the family’s safety when they threw teargas into the house.

Lancer claims the death of her child has caused her pain and suffering. She adds that despite the perpetrators being identified, the Government has not brought them to book.

“The petitioner contends the actions of the police officers in assaulting the victim who was a minor, were unconstitutional. The action of the first respondent’s (Inspector General of Police) officers deprived the baby of her life,” court papers read.

Pendo’s mother says her child would still be alive today had the officers heeded her cry for help.

She wants the court to hold that Pendo’s rights were violated and order compensation. The case will be heard on November 5, 2019.

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