A mother’s heartbreak as son is shot dead by police

Ms Everline Miruka (centre) is consoled by relatives at the Coptic Hospital mortuary in Maseno, Kisumu County

Ms Everline Miruka (centre) is consoled by relatives at the Coptic Hospital mortuary in Maseno, Kisumu County on March 21, 2023, after police shot and killed her son William Mayenga during anti-government protests on Monday.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

That her son will not be among the students graduating at Maseno University next year, but instead will be in a grave, yet another statistic of alleged police shootings breaks Ms Everlyne Miruka’s heart. 

The 44-year-old spoke bitterly about the death of her son, William Mayenga, a third-year Literature student at the university located some 26 kilometres from Kisumu City, who died from a gunshot wound following Monday’s anti-government protests.

William was her first-born son and was the only fatality of the violent protests. Ms Miruka last spoke to and saw her son on Monday last week when she gave him some pocket money and promised to send more in a few days. Little did she know that it would be their last conversation.

“I was shocked by the news. At first, they lied to me that my son was still alive, only to reach the hospital and find him lying dead,” said Ms Miruka. She expected her son to be successful in future and also be a teacher like his parents. A distraught Ms Miruka, who was with other relatives at the Coptic Hospital mortuary where her son’s body lay, demanded justice.

Ms Miruka teaches English and science at Emaruba Primary School in Vihiga County while her husband Joash Bangi Mayenga teaches mathematics at Birongo Secondary School in Nyamira County.

At Coptic Hospital, Mr Mayenga stood shaken and distraught. The 54-year-old was driven by his brother-in-law Joel all the way from Keroka in Kisii County, 137 kilometres away.

“I spoke with my son last Friday and he was in a jovial mood only to receive the bad news yesterday evening,” said Mr Mayenga.

William was to turn 22 in May before he fell to a single shot to the neck a few meters from the university’s main gate.

Dead on arrival

He was rushed to Coptic Hospital where he was dead on arrival.

Police said protesters, who included students, had invaded the Maseno police line and vandalised at least 10 houses, prompting officers to use live bullets to disperse the rowdy youths.

According to the report, the students had earlier looted Sairam Supermarket in Maseno town and other businesses on the Kisumu-Busia highway. The students lit bonfires and barricaded the road with stones. At least six officers were injured during the melee, police said.

But the students have a different version of the events.

“The police want to create a narrative that we were violent and injured them. We demand that they produce the officers who they claim we beat up and show the extent of their injuries,” said Mr Fredrick Were, a student leader. Mr Yatin Patel, the owner of Sairam Supermarket, counted his losses after university students vandalised his outlet. He said he suffered between Sh1. 2 million and Sh2. 5 million in damages.

Angry students yesterday blocked the Kisumu-Busia highway, paralysing traffic for the better part of the day while engaging the police in running battles.

Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o also demanded the arrest and prosecution of the “trigger-happy” police officer who shot and killed the student.

Prof Nyong’o termed it unfortunate that, instead of using tear gas or rubber bullets, the police chose to fire live ammunition at the students. The independent Policing and Oversight Authority (Ipoa) announced yesterday it has launched investigations into William’s death. Ipoa also said it was looking into the shooting of another man near Toi Market in Kibra, Nairobi.

Kenya University Students Organisation Nyanza coordinator Hannington Oguk called on Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki to investigate the matter and bring the culprit to book.

Additional reporting by Steve Otieno