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'Police broke my leg for not wearing face mask' – Vihiga woman narrates

By Benard Lusigi | July 21st 2021
26-year-old Shillah Imali nurses her broken leg in Busingo village, Vihiga County. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

In Busingo village, Vihiga County, Shillah Imali struggles to walk around their mud-walled house as she does her chores, her weight supported on crutches.

She occasionally sighs in pain when she bends over a cooking stove to prepare a cup of porridge for her seven-year-old son.

“I am lucky to have survived, but I still suffer pain in the leg,” says Imali.

She vividly remembers the unfortunate incident on March 24 that led to her condition after an encounter with police officers over lack of a face mask.

When the 26-year-old saw a police vehicle patrolling the area looking for people violating Covid-19 protocols, she was worried because neither she nor her son had a mask.

“Eight policemen jumped out of the vehicle and chased after me to my house. I locked myself in but they broke into the house. Fearing that they would do the worst to me, I exited using the backdoor,” she narrates.

“The police saw me and gave chase.”

Imali then decided to surrender by sitting down and pleading for mercy from the officers. Her child was wailing.

“The police nonetheless jumped on my leg and I felt a sharp pain pass through my body. I was immobile. After the police saw the damage they started walking away,” she says.

The incident enraged residents who confronted the police and demanded they take her to the hospital in their vehicle.

“Due to the large crowd that gathered, police gave in to the pressure and took me to Vihiga County Referral Hospital in Mbale where they dropped me at the reception and told the doctors that I was drunk,” she says.

Police report shows Imali was admitted to hospital on April 5, contradicting that of Vihiga County Referral Hospital, which shows the victim was admitted on March 24.

The medical report, which The Standard saw, shows that Imali was not under the influence of drugs as earlier reported by police officers.

Eight witnesses

Imali says her younger sister reported the matter to Serem Police Station on March 31, where the Officer Commanding Station (OCS) told her to come with her sister and eight witnesses.

“I was forced to leave the hospital and I managed to get the witnesses to testify against the police. However, the OCS changed her mind and asked me to identify one of the police officers and I was unable to,” she says.

The doctor’s report shows the assault led to a broken bone in Imali’s right leg, which needed a cast.

Imali’s sister Purity Khalambukha says she did not report the matter immediately after the incident for fear of being intimidated again by the police.

Imali says the OCS dismissed her case against police officers and instead told her that they were looking for her mother without disclosing why.

Her family is now appealing to the State to investigate the matter so that Imali can get justice. They say they have incurred a lot in medical bills for Imali.

When contacted, Hamisi OCPD Austin Obonyo said he was not aware of the matter and referred us to his deputy.

But Joseph Katuko, the deputy OCPD, said he was on leave during the incident.

“There is a possibility of reviewing the matter if it was rightfully channelled, though I am not deep into the content of the matter because I was away from duty,” said Katuko.

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