Tharaka Nithi County askari on the spot after woman burnt with hot oil

Jackline Gatwiri

Ms Jackline Gatwiri who was reportedly pushed into a pan with boiling cooking oil by a Tharaka-Nithi County Government enforcement officer on May 22, 2023. On the left is Agnes Nkanya Foundation director Agnes Nkanya.

Photo credit: Alex Njeru I Nation Media Group

Ms Jackline Gatwiri of Chuka town is fighting for her life, with severe burns on her hand and abdomen after she was allegedly pushed into a pot of boiling cooking oil by a Tharaka Nithi County enforcement officer.

Speaking to the media from her rented single room in Chuka town on Tuesday, Ms Gatwiri said she had gone to deliver a jumper to her husband who roasts chicken on the streets of Chuka town on the chilly evening of May 22 when she faced the wrath of the officers a few minutes after 7pm. 

She happened to arrive as the enforcement officers were about to arrest some vendors for selling food contrary to health regulations.

The officers jumped out of their vehicle and pounced on the traders as others ran away. In the ensuing chaos, one of the askaris, intent on arresting her husband Nickson Mwandiki, pushed Ms Gatwiri and she fell on the hot oil.

"I was badly burned," said Ms Gatwiri.

She was taken to the Chuka County Referral Hospital where she was treated and allowed to go home the following morning.

Ms Gatwiri said the doctor recommended that she be admitted, but she insisted on going home and attend treatment daily from her house, which is about two kilometres away, because she could not afford the admission fees.

She also wanted to be home for her young children, who had spent the night alone and hungry.

From the hospital, Ms Gatwiri went to Chuka Police Station to report the incident. After a long back and forth with officers who did not want to record the allegations in the case book, she recorded a statement.

"The police threatened to arrest and charge me with food hawking if I insisted on recording my statement, but one of the officers eventually recorded it," she said.

Health Act

In court, Mwandiki and a few other hawkers were charged with violating the Public Health Act and fined Sh10,000 each.

Mr Mwandiki said that because he could not pay the Sh10,000, his friends helped him raise the amount and he was able to pay the fine.

"I had to beg for help because my wife was already badly burned and could not even look after the children if I was sent to prison," said Mr Mwandiki.

Two weeks later, the officer responsible for Ms Gatwiri’s ordeal is a free man, back on duty.

When Nation.Africa spoke to Chuka Sub-County Police Commander Paul Kuria, he said he had not received any such report.

"I am not aware of such a case but I will follow up and ensure that the officer is charged in court if he has indeed committed the crime," Mr Kuria said.

He insisted that no one is above the law and that everyone must be treated equally regardless of their position in government.

Ms Gatwiri went back to the hospital only once because she could not afford the Sh300 daily for the clinic.

She is now appealing to the government to ensure that she gets justice, and is urging well-wishers to help her get treatment because her husband is now unemployed.

Mrs Agnes Nkanya, founder of the Agnes Nkanya Foundation, has condemned the attack and appealed to the police to speed up investigations.

She has also appealed to Tharaka Nithi Woman Representative Susan Ngugi to help Ms Gatwiri get medical attention through her Susan Mwindu Rescue Services.

Efforts to contact the county government for comment were unsuccessful.