A family in Malaba, Busia County, wants justice for their son who was allegedly shot and killed by police on Friday night for not wearing a mask, used to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
It was said that Ezekiel Oduor Okiru, a 20-year-old who cleaned vehicles in Malaba town, was shot by police on patrol after defying an order to stop.
His family, which lives in Kajei Enyuru village, said he died at Kocholia dispensary while waiting for an ambulance to rush him to Bungoma County Referral Hospital.
His death sparked protests on Saturday by residents who marched to the police station in Malaba and demanded answers. Running battles lasted the better part of the day and resulted in a traffic snarl-up at the border town.
Police officers, including some in the General Service Unit (GSU), used tear gas to disperse hundreds of people who lit fires and barricaded the Bungoma-Malaba and Malaba-Angorai roads.
Oduor’s mother, Margaret Atiang' Okiru, said he left home at around 7pm to close the car wash where he worked, promising to return in time for dinner with the family.
"We were preparing dinner when he took his bicycle and said he was rushing to finish washing a vehicle he had left in the yard before joining us for supper. This never was as I was called shortly after he left, with information that he had been shot by police. I am yet to come to terms with his death," she said.
She described her son as a bright student who passed his KCPE exams and joined Kolanya Boys’ High School but opted to wash cars and motorcycles after learning was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms Okiru said the OCS in Malaba is to blame for brutality and high-handedness against locals as police enforce anti-virus protocols.
She wondered why the officers shot her son instead of arresting him for breaking the regulation.
“I would have sold a piece of our family land to bail him out if he had been arrested. All I want is compensation,” she said.
Bernard Emai, the Assistant Organising Secretary of the Bodaboda Riders’ Association, complained of ruthlessness by police.
“The problem is that the majority of them have stayed here for too long. Some came when they were single and are now married with children in primary schools. How long should an officer serve in one station?”
Residents also accused police officers of starting the crackdown as early as 8pm yet President Uhuru Kenyatta revised the curfew hours to 10pm-4am.
In his reaction to the incident, Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong said he was irked by the turn of events.
“Of late police have been harassing members of the public in their efforts to contain Covid-19. They have taken matters into their own hands, attacking and arresting members of the public found without masks and fining them heavily,” said Mr Ojaamong.
Teso North MP Edward Oku Kaunya called for justice for Oduor’s family and asked Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai to bring the shooter to book.
"I condemn the incident in the strongest terms possible. It is unfortunate that police officers can use firearms on a young man who has not put on a mask. Action should be taken by the IG. The officer must be arrested and arraigned," Mr Kaunya said.
He added, "The public is demonstrating peacefully so the GSU should not be deployed to harm them. They are rightfully expressing their anger.”
Busia County Police Commander John Nyoike said investigations will be carried out and that the officer found culpable will face the full force of the law.
"If the police officer is found guilty, he will not be exempted from punishment. He will be treated as any other offender and arraigned," Mr Nyoike said.
He cautioned the public against acting lawlessly when aggrieved.