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Fateful night that led to Samantha Pendo’s death

When Lancer Achieng married Joseph Abanja in 2012, she had high hopes that their family would expand and flourish.

However, their attempts at having children were frustrated twice when Achieng experienced one miscarriage after another.

Six months ago, however, everything changed.

GIFT

Achieng, 29, walked into the Star Hospital in Kisumu as an expectant woman and on February 8, walked out as a happy and proud new mother, cradling her new born daughter in her arms.

At last her dream of becoming a mother had come true.

She and her husband Joseph, 34, called their daughter Samantha Pendo.

Incidentally, Pendo is the Swahili word for love.

They named their infant Pendo because they believed God had showed Achieng love and mercy after she went through a difficult delivery.

FATEFUL DAY
Their joy ought to have been complete.

In the last few days, however, the name Pendo has come to represent pain, tears, sorrow and anguish, not just for Pendo’s parents but for the country too.

It all began on the night of Friday, August 11, three days after Pendo had turned six months and her mother had joined other Kenyans in voting for their preferred leaders.

ELECTIONS
Just before 11pm on the ill-fated day, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission announced the results of the presidential election at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi, over 340 kilometres from Kisumu, where Achieng and Joseph live.

Little did the couple know that this was to be the beginning of the longest night in their lives.

Soon after President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared winner, screams rent the air in Nyalenda slums, where Achieng lives with her husband.

Youth poured into the streets to protest at the outcome.

POLICE

They had hoped that their preferred candidate, Mr Raila Odinga, would be declared the winner.

Sadly, what started as a political protest turned tragic as gunshots rang out in the night.

Police officers were descending on the protesters, clobbering and hurling teargas to disperse them.

Witnesses claim that when the protesters fled from the streets, the police followed them to their homes.

According to Joseph, the policemen were moving from house to house.

“Police were banging doors and storming into houses fishing out protesters,” he said.

ASSAULT
He said that when the police got to his house, they threatened to break in and shoot them.

“They kept shouting that they would shoot if we didn’t let them in. Finally, they threw teargas canisters into the house and beat up my wife, our two children, and I,” he said.

Achieng said that two officers broke into their house and began hitting her.

“It all started at 1am,” she said. “I was carrying the baby in my arms when they beat me up and they hit baby Samantha on the head with a club,” she said.

FIRST AID
According to Joseph, after one of the officers realised that he had hit the baby, he wanted to offer First Aid.

“He panicked on realising the baby was hurt. I remember he asked whether I could carry out First Aid on the child,” he said.

However, under pressure from his colleagues, the officer left the house.  

“When the police left, we took the baby to Oasis Hospital in Nyalenda but they could not handle her case. We, therefore, rushed her to Aga Khan Hospital,” Achieng said.

By that time, Pendo had developed a swelling on the head.

“We arrived at the hospital at around 4am. She was silent, her eyes were closed. She had lost a lot of blood because of the wounds she sustained on her head,” Achieng added.

INTERNAL BLEEDING
The infant was admitted for treatment but slipped into a coma for four days. She finally died on Tuesday evening.

A post-mortem carried out two days later revealed that Pendo had suffered an cracked scalp and that she had deep injuries.

According to the Government Consultant Pathologist, Dr Dickson Mchana, the baby died due to internal bleeding.

“Actually it was bad. The baby had gaping head fractures. That is what kept the baby alive.

“When the scalp opens, it relives pressure, otherwise if it would have been enclosed the baby would have died immediately,” Dr Mchana said.

INVESTIGATE
The police have denied that they clobbered people or even the infant on the ill-fated night.

Mr Leonard Katana, the Regional Police Commander in Kisumu said his team had launched investigations into the incident and promised that disciplinary action would be taken.

Kisumu County Commissioner Mohammed Maalim has maintained that police will only take responsibility for the death if investigations reveal that they were culpable.

JUSTICE
Mr Maalim, who is also the chairman of the county intelligence and security committee, said the security committee had mandated the County criminal investigations officer, Mr Geoffrey Kathurima, to investigate the circumstances that led to the death of the baby.

“We have to trust our agencies, which include police and organisations such IPOA to investigate fully and come up with a comprehensive report on what led to the death of the baby. Until then we cannot take responsibility,” he said.

Until Pendo breathed her last, her father had high hopes that his daughter would pull through. Now, he has nothing but tears.

“I demand justice for my daughter,” he told the Saturday Nation.

“She was not protesting. Her father was not protesting. Her mother was not protesting. Yet they killed her.”

She succumbed to internal bleeding, says government pathologist.

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