DPP Haji targets police bosses over Baby Pendo’s death

DPP Noordin Haji

Director of Criminal Prosecutions Noordin Haji.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Hajj has said his office intends to go after Police Commanders who were in-charge of quelling protests in Kisumu that led to the death of Bay Samatha Pendo in 2017.

Speaking in Mombasa during the meeting between the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and media practitioners, Mr Hajj said they will be pushing for prosecution of police bosses to set the precedent of seniors taking personal responsibility when people's human rights are violated by their juniors. 

"My office together with Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) and United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) have gone back and reviewed, for instance, the case of Baby Pendo. Now, we are going to prosecute the offence of command responsibility so that all those who gave commands and instructions take responsibility," he said.

Baby Pendo became the symbol of police brutality in the August 2017 post-election chaos. An inquest into the death indicted five police commanders for overseeing brutality and, specifically, for the bludgeoning to death of the infant. The file was then forwarded to the DPP’s office. 

The incident took place on August 11, 2017, as Baby Pendo’s parents, Ms Lencer Achieng Sege and her husband Joseph Oloo Sege Abanja, hid with her in their house at Kilo Junction in Nyalenda. Outside, police battled protesters in Kisumu town’s streets following the controversial August 8, 2017, presidential election.

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
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

Mr Haji now wants to enforce command responsibility among senior police officers 'ordering such violations'.

"Prosecutors don't investigate but prosecute. But whatever is brought to us must reach at a certain threshold for us to be able to prosecute and evidence must be there. We must be able to prove in court beyond reasonable doubt that the offence occurred," he said.

"For a long time, junior police officers have been prosecuted over actions of their seniors. But we have not been looking at the issue of commanding responsibility. Most of the time they have been given commands or instructions on what to do, and yet we do not go for those issuing  commands," he added.