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Inquest Examines Killing of Baby in Kenya Post-Election Violence


FILE - A supporter of opposition leader Raila Odinga throws a canister of tear gas towards riot police during running battles with police in Kibera Slums in Nairobi, Kenya, Nov. 19, 2017.

A public inquest is underway in Kenya into the brutal killing of a six-month-old baby during last year's post-election unrest. According to the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights, at least 92 people were killed in the aftermath of the polls -- most of them, including baby Samantha Pendo, by security forces. While justice for police killings is rare in Kenya, the Pendo family is determined.

Initial investigations by Kenyan police failed to identify the killers of six-month-old Samantha Pendo.

Pendo's mother, Lencer Achieng took the stand in a packed courtroom Monday. The now mother of one recounted how security forces came to her house in Kisumu.

"They pushed the door and managed to get a space where they threw a tear gas canister in the house, then there was a smoke. I could not breathe, my eyes were itchy. Pendo's eyes were itchy. You could see her struggling to breathe, rubbing her eyes," she said.

Achieng said she tried find her way outside with the children as the police beat her husband.

"...The police officer who was in front of me started beating me.The other one beat me at the back. When I looked behind to see who had beat me, that stick met my child's head and immediately I had Pendo holding me tightly as if in pain. I turned her, when I looked at her there was foam in her mouth and her head had swollen immediately," she said.

According to pathology reports, Pendo suffered deep head injuries, dying due to internal bleeding.

Otsieno Namwaya is a researcher with Human Rights Watch. He said there is no guarantee that justice will be served in Pendo's case.

"The process of a public inquest means that the regular investigations did not yield any results.They said they could not identify the actual police killers so they recommended a public inquest.The advantage of a public inquest is that it can go beyond the normal investigation.However the inquest report itself is not binding," said Namwaya.

In other words, he said, the report could go back to the police, who could choose not to conduct a further investigation.

Following Pendo's death, Kenyan Police Inspector General Joseph Boinnet said police were investigating the incident and remarked, "No sane officer would hit a child."

He also said the police response to protests in Kisumu that night in August was "lawful and proportionate."

Rights groups in Kenya have continually condemned what they consider police brutality.

"Why do we have so many such cases in Kenya? Partly because the police officers who do this kind of thing know that the accountability mechanisms are weak and there is also no political will to ensure that those who kill unlawfully get prosecuted. So they know that they can get away with it," said Namwaya.

As for Pendo's family, they hope they will get the justice that seems so elusive at the moment.

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