No justice for baby Pendo three years on

Joseph Abanja, father to Baby Samantha Pendo, during the interview at his home in Nyalenda, Kisumu on August 9, 2020. He says he has ‘known no peace of mind’ and has called for justice to prevail. Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Today, August 11, Baby Pendo would have been three and a half-years-old.
  • But as her parents mark the third anniversary of her death, they are yet to get justice for their daughter who was bludgeoned to death by anti-riot police officers.
  • A public inquiry into the death of Baby Pendo was completed and the ruling delivered on February 14, 2019.

On August 11, 2017, a fine flower was plucked out of the safety of their house and violently nipped in the bud, by one of the baton-wielding policemen, who had laid siege to her parents’ humble abode, in an area known as Kilo Junction, of Kisumu’s Nyalenda low-income settlement.

Those were the words of Kisumu Resident Magistrate Beryl Omollo on February 14 2019, as she canvassed arguments that would lay ground for prosecution of five senior police officer who were found responsible for the killing of a baby in the 2017 post-election violence in Kisumu.

This followed a public inquest into Baby Samantha Pendo’s killing, where three senior police officers were found responsible, with a recommendation for them to face murder charges.

Today, August 11, Baby Pendo would have been three and a half-years-old.

But as her parents mark the third anniversary of her death, they are yet to get justice for their daughter who was bludgeoned to death by anti-riot police officers.

It remains a painful, unforgettable incident for Ms Lenser Achieng Sege and her husband, Mr Joseph Oloo Sege Abanja.

Three years down the line, the Nation visited the house where it all happened.

Memory still fresh

The memory of that fateful day is still as fresh and devastating as when it happened, so much so that Ms Sege chose not to speak about it, but allowed her husband Mr Abanja to speak to us.

In between the interview, he breaks down as he recalls the incident and recounts what life for them was like thereafter.

“Nobody is willing to help me because they feel I am wealthy yet there is nothing I am getting out of it. I have been suffering ever since I lost Baby Pendo. I wish my daughter never died, my life could be different,” said Mr Abanja.

Joseph Abanja recalls painful night when police clobbered his daughter to death

He admits that he drowned himself in alcohol and locked himself in the house for months. He also lost some of his precious assets after creditors took away his tuk tuk when he defaulted on payments for two months. He says this took a toll on him since it was his main source of income. 

Mr Abanja says there are instances where he had to lock himself at home and just play with his two remaining children, an 11-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy.

“I resorted to alcohol which only postponed my problems. My turning point was when one day I was drunk in the house and my daughter asked me why I was drinking too much. She asked me to stop and that is what I did and went back to boda boda,” said Mr Abanja.

He is grateful to his wife for being understanding and supporting him during that period.

baby pendo

Baby Samantha Pendo’s parents Joseph Abanja (right) and Lencer Achieng’ in court during the public inquest seeking to establish the killers of their daughter at the Kisumu Law Courts on February 14, 2019.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Empty promises

After he lost his daughter, many leaders visited his home with pledges, from Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o, Kisumu Woman Representative Rozah Buyu, the Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs among others.

“The governor promised me a job that has never come forth,” he said.

“This has affected me....every time I go for an interview especially for driving, I am dismissed on the premise that I was awarded a job at the County Government, which is not the case,” said Mr Abanja.

Governor Nyong’o had last year revealed plans to transform the Kachok dumpsite land into a recreational park where a children’s corner will be named in memory of Baby Samantha Pendo. 

There was also a proposal to rename Ring Road to Baby Pendo Road, but Mr Abanja says his family has never been involved in all these plans.

Kisumu Governor Prof Anyang' Nyong'o and his Deputy Dr Mathews Owili at Baby Pendo's requiem mass at St Joseph Catholic Church, Milimani on August 25, 2017. File | Nation Media Group

A public inquiry into the death of Baby Pendo was completed and the ruling delivered on February 14, 2019.

The courts found that senior police chiefs on duty during the post-election chaos that followed the August 2017 General Election could face murder charges after the inquest found them culpable.

In a 38-page judgement, Resident Magistrate Ms Beryl Omollo ruled that the five officers have a case to answer.

The five were Mr Titus Yoma, former County Commander of Kisumu on the day when Baby Pendo was bludgeoned to death on August 11, Mr Christopher Mutune, the former OCPD of Kisumu East and Mr Bernard Kipkosgey Koima, Deputy Sub-County AP Commander in Kisumu in the area where the incident happened.

Others were Ms Linah Kogey (then Nyalenda OCS) and Mr John Thiringi, the then Chief Inspector who was OCS for Kisumu Central.

The inquest also found GSU Chief Inspector Kyengo Masha John and his platoon of 29 officers who manned Kachok roundabout Ring Road, Kachok Fly Over area were ‘persons of interest’ since they had been deployed to quell chaos.

While visiting the region last year, Director of Public Prosections Noordin Hajji promised to have the case commence, but it hasn’t until now.

“We haven’t heard of anything and I don’t understand what is taking so long yet there is overwhelming evidence against those involved. All I want is justice for my daughter,” says Mr Abanja.

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