Death at Bondo protests leave families bereft


Death at Bondo protests leave families bereft

The two families are contemplating legal measures against the Inspector General of Police and the National Government

The families of Maurice Okumu,31, and Stephen Omondi, 23, are struggling to recover from their sudden death after they were felled by the guns of police officers, the officers who are supposed to protect them.

The deceased were part of hundreds of Bondo town residents who took part in anti-IEBC demonstrations around the country. Three people, including a 15-year-old boy, died from gunshots as anti-riot police deployed in the town three weeks ago.

Ms Beth Akinyi ,27, a widow recounts the last moments she shared with her jovial husband, Maurice Okumu, a boda-boda operator in Bondo town. She describes him as loving, caring, hardworking and kind.

Nation caught up with Ms Akinyi, a supermarket attendant in Bondo, at her house in the outskirts of Bondo Town. She recounted how on October 13, the couple left their house to go to work, hoping to meet in the evening.

The mother of three added that in the course of the day, hundreds of protestors passed through her workplace, prompting the management to lock them inside in a bid to prevent vandalism.

She added that she remained inside the locked supermarket until late in the evening, following heightened tensions in the town after the killing of three demonstrators by police.

She was released for home late in the evening. On reaching home, she was informed about the death of her husband when a neighbour told her he had been killed by the police.

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Maurice Odhiambo, who was killed on October 13, 2017. PHOTO | COURTESY
Maurice Odhiambo, who was killed on October 13, 2017. PHOTO | COURTESY

“I spoke to Maurice for the last time that Friday morning when we were leaving for work. He told me he would be coming back home early so that I could prepare his favourite meal,” said Ms Akinyi.

“As I was opening my door a neighbour approached me and told me my husband was amongst the police had shot. I was shocked because I did not see him when the demonstrators passed by where I work earlier in the day,” added Ms Akinyi.

Ms Akinyi said that she called his phone but it was off prompting her to head to the Bondo sub county hospital mortuary to identify his body.

She was denied access by the hospital management untill the following day when she positively identified her slain husband’s body. The widow added that she was asked to record a statement at the Bondo police station which she did, only for the police to go silent with the matter.

'EXERCISED RESTRAINT'

She added that officers from the Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) had visited her once and taken her statements but dismissed her case, claiming that she did not witness the shooting.

“I have recorded statements with both the police and IPOA who have since gone silent days after Maurice was shot by the police. It is sad that IPOA dismissed my case when they claimed that I did not witness my husband shooting, yet he died of gunshot wounds as depicted in the postmortem,” lamented Ms Akinyi.

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Beth Akinyi, Maurice's widow with their two children. PHOTO | BARACK ODUOR

Bondo OCPD, Mr Paul Kiarie, has absolved the police from any wrongdoing and instead accused the protestors of attempting to storm the Bondo Police Station under the pretext of demonstrating.

He added that they were forced to use lethal force on realising that the protestors had turned violent and injured some police officers.

“We exercised restraint on the protesters until a time we realised that they were committed in storming into the police station forcing us to resort to alternative forces that would subdue them,” said Mr Kiarie.

Ms Akinyi called on both the County and National Government to help her raise her three young children aged seven, five and three years respectively because her current employment could not enable her to cater for their education and daily needs.

“I am currently surviving with the savings from the contributions from Raila Odinga and the county government towards the funeral. I would be glad if Mr Rasanga employed me as he promised in public, to enable me care for my young children,” requested Ms Akinyi.

Several kilometres away, in the neighbouring Alego Usonga constituency, is the family of Stephen Omondi. They are also calling for justice after the young man was shot by police in anti IEBC protests at Bondo.

Mzee Henry Oduor, 60, recalls the last conversation he had with his son. Stephen had promised to send him money to pay school fees for his three siblings, studying at Nyajuok Primary School.

Two days later, he received word that that his son was seriously injured by gunshot wounds inflicted on him by police officers.

PORK BUTCHERY

Mzee Oduor a father of eight children, described his second born son as an industrious, hardworking, caring young man, whose absence has left a huge gap in the family that is just recovering from the death of their mother.

“My son had just returned from Nairobi where he did odd jobs, before relocating to Bondo where he operated a pork butchery which he had set up one month ago, only for his life to be cut short.”

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Stephen Odour. “My son had just returned from Nairobi where he did odd jobs before relocating to Bondo, where he operated a pork butchery,
Stephen Odour. “My son had just returned from Nairobi where he did odd jobs before relocating to Bondo, where he operated a pork butchery," says Henry Oduor. Above, Henry Oduor holds a picture of his son, Stephen. PHOTO | COURTESY | BARACK ODUOR.

Mzee Henry wondered how his son was shot by the police when it was apparently clear that he was not part of the demonstrators as he was shot several metres away from the Bondo Police Station.

He called on the Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) to expedite investigations and deliver justice to his son, who he insists was innocent.

“I have not heard another word from IPOA despite our previous meeting in Bondo several weeks ago where they took our statements and went without giving us another way forward,” said the weary Mzee Oduor.

LEGAL MEASURES

Mzee Oduor admitted receiving direct assistance from Nasa presidential candidate Raila Odinga and the Siaya county government, but called on governor Rasanga to offer him any job opportunity or even consider assisting his remaining three children with their education.

“I am thankful to Mr Odinga and the Siaya county government for seeing me through the burial of my son. But I would want the county government to consider my kids in classes eight, seven and six with education bursaries and enable them complete their education since I do not have a permanent source of income,” said Mzee Oduor.

The two families are contemplating legal measures against the Inspector General of Police and the National Government to compel the government to compensate them for the deaths of their loved ones.