Tears and emotions run deep at Baby Pendo inquest

Lencer Achieng, baby Samantha Pendo's mother during the proceedings [Dennish Ochieng, Standard]

Emotions ran high at Kisumu Magistrate Court as the parents of Baby Samantha Pendo narrated the ordeal when the inquest into the death begun today.

The court had to adjourn three times to allow Lenser Achieng, Pendo’s mother, to compose herself and testify, even as she battled emotions from the memory of the event.

Wiping tears, sobbing and changing standing positions was the order, her face full of anger as she told the court how ‘results of democracy snatched her baby.’

Baby Pendo died on August 15, at Aga Khan Hospital in Kisumu, three days after she was allegedly attacked by anti-riot police in their Nyalenda house following skirmishes which followed declaration of President Uhuru Kenyatta as the winner of the August 8, presidential election.

After Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) failed to place a finger at her killers, the office of the Director of Public Prosecution in November directed for a public inquest to help trace the perpetrators of the heinous act.

And yesterday, Achieng was the first witness to take to the stand, out of the 21 witnesses set to testify in the inquest.

By 10am, Achieng who was dressed in a grey dress took to the stand, recounting step by step of the painful ordeal that her family went through following the midnight attack on their single roomed house.

She said that what started as an ordinary day which saw her left work for home very early turned out to be a nightmare when they were awoken by loud screams from neighbors.

“We retired to bed early that day and at around midnight, I heard my neighbor screaming because they were being beaten by officers,” she said.

The screams sent chilling fears to them as they heard voices of officers coming closer to their house.

The young family, she testified, cuddled together with a hope that nothing was going to happen to them even as she pleaded with her husband that they go out to settle their anxiety.

Moments later, she said, the officers started kicking on their door before they hurled a teargas canister inside the house after they failed to open the door for the police officers.

“I heard a loud burst and for a moment I thought that they had shot my husband who stood up the moment they hurled the teargas canister inside the house,” said Achieng.

Her husband, Joseph Abanja, she said started screaming at the officers pleading with them that he had a toddler and a small child in the house.

The court had to take another break as the heartbroken Achieng unsuccessfully struggled to fight back tears while shaking her head in anguish.

“My husband tried to open the door to save us from the chocking fumes but was unable because the officers had locked the door from outside,” said the aggrieved mother.

She said the family pleaded with the officers to open the door as the officers mocked them from outside.

Her husband then forcefully pulled down the door and he was immediately subjected to a string of beatings by the officers as they handed him blows, kicks and also hit him with clubs.

Terrified and partially naked, Achieng told the court that she also ran outside while carrying baby Pendo to save her from the chocking and itching fumes.

The officers whom she said were dressed in jungle green uniforms and wore helmets and carried guns and shields surrounded them as they continued to beat her husband.

“One of the officers started hitting me from the front and I blocked it with my left arm to protect the baby. Another one hit me from behind and when I turned around to look, my baby was hit from the front,” she said amid sobs.

She said she saw foam coming out of baby Pendo’s mouth and the left side of her head had swollen as the baby remained still.

“She held me tightly and became unresponsive after she was hit. I screamed at the officers and asked them why they had killed my baby,” said Achieng.

The rogue officers continued to mock them with one of them asking the father to do a first aid on the baby before they left the compound the family was staying.

Achieng painfully narrated how the family frantically struggled in the middle of the night to find medication for the six month old baby and went to three hospitals in futility.

She said they walked up to the road and found another contingent of police officers sitting by the roadside. They begged them to assist them to help them take the child to hospital but they declined.

The child received first aid several hours later at Agha Khan before she was admitted in ICU.

Her father who also testified said that the incident brought immense pain to the family.

Baby Samantha was pronounced dead three days later with a post mortem result showing that she died of internal bleeding.

The hearing will continue this Friday with other witnesses including former police bosses expected to give their testimonies in the public inquest.