Baby Pendo: DPP Haji gives nod to charge police bosses over infant's death

baby pendo

Six-month-old Samantha Pendo who died of head injuries sustained during a police raid at their family home in Nyalenda slums in Kisumu in August 2017. 

Photo credit: File | Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

DPP Noordin Haji has given the go-ahead to charge 12 police bosses, including a commissioner, with serious crimes over an array of crimes including the death of Samantha Pendo, also known as Baby Pendo, in 2017 in Kisumu. Baby Pendo was a victim of the brutal force that anti-riot police unleashed on demonstrators who protested presidential results announcing that President Uhuru Kenyatta had won a second term against ODM leader Raila Odinga. 

The charges he has recommended following the chaotic aftermath involving several incidents of police brutality include murder, rape and torture as crimes against humanity. 

The officers to face the charges include a commissioner of police, senior superintendent of police, an assistant superintendent, a chief inspector, an inspector, six inspectors of police, a senior sergeant and one sergeant.

While the identities of the suspects have not been revealed, DPP Haji said the attacks were committed by and under the authority of senior national police officers, who apart from murder of Baby Pendo, committed other offences such as torture, rape and sexual violence. 

"The ODPP was of the opinion that the concept of superior/command responsibility must be exploited for the first time in Kenya’s history,” Mr Haji said in a statement Friday.

Noordin Haji

Director of Public Prosecutions, Noordin Haji. 

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

The atrocities were committed in Kisumu between August 11 and 15, 2017, just after the General Election, in Nyalenda, Nyamasaria, Kondele and Obunga, where six-month-old Baby Pendo was bludgeoned to death. A post-mortem had revealed that the baby suffered an open cracked scalp with deep head injuries in the attack.

Baby Pendo was clobbered to death as police officers raided her parents’ home Nyalenda to quell riots over the disputed presidential polls. An inquest later found five police officers culpable.

Baby Pendo father

Joseph Abanja, father to Baby Samantha Pendo, during an 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.

Photo credit: File | Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

After the judgment, the DPP said he established that the attacks were committed by and under the authority of senior national police officers, who apart from murder of Baby Pendo, committed other offences such as torture, rape and sexual violence. Mr Haji later expanded the investigations beyond the murder of Baby Pendo, taking into account the aspect of superior/command responsibility.

Serious violations

The investigations were undertaken by the Independent Policing and Oversight Authority (IPOA) with the assistance of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and civil society organisations.

The DPP says he also requested and was supported by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and by international experts from Partners in Justice International.

“The above investigations established that the police officers may have been responsible for the unlawful killing of Baby Pendo among other serious human rights violations including raiding homes of innocent unarmed civilians and committing various atrocities as part of a systematic and widespread attack against the civilian population in the said areas,” Mr Haji said.

The DPP said the residents in the informal settlements were subjected to pain and suffering as police officers used excessive force and sexual violence. 

“Further evidence points to the systematic use of violence, including killing, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence against civilians, all of which constitute serious human rights violations and crimes against humanity,” he said.

He pointed out that the police officers acted under an operation dubbed Operation Post-Election Mpango. He says the operation had a well-organised command structure with sector commanders.

“Consequently, I have directed that the suspects be charged accordingly,” Mr Haji said.