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Kenya:Victims of stray bullets live in agony over fears of victimisation

Michael Muiruri shows where the bullet hit his shoe before it lodged in the leg

Michael Muiruri shows where the bullet hit his shoe before it lodged in the leg

Innocent Kenyans continue to suffer in silence after being maimed by stray police bullets or in cases of mistaken identity.

More worryingly, some have been condemned to permanent disability after they sustained serious gunshot wounds or brutalised by law enforcers in mystifying cases of mistaken identity.

What follows is a life of torment, with the crippled victims unable to provide for their families, leave alone foot huge medical bills. Most individuals say they also live in fear of victimisation by the police, who they suspect might implicate them in crimes to justify their deeds, in a bid to avoid culpability.

Mr Daniel Nguma, an employee of the Catholic Diocese of Kitui, is still nursing a bullet wound on his left thigh. He was shot by law enforcers last month during a botched operation to rescue a kidnap victim that saw ex-Kwekwe squad boss Zebedeyo Maina shot dead by fellow cops.

Nguma, 27, was walking along Mama Ngina Street in Kitui with George Kavindu, a driver of the Kitui Catholic Secretariat, when they were ambushed by two plainclothes policemen. “They descended on us with kicks, knocking us to the ground. As one of the officers lifted me up by the belt, another shot me in the thigh, sending me back to the ground where they continued brutalising us,” he narrates.

The two were accused of kidnaping a five-year-old girl in Nairobi, and were allegedly identified by the child’s mother, who had accompanied the police.

They were later linked to Maina’s killing and taken to Kitui Police Station where they were booked in the day’s Occurrence Book’s numbers 28 and 29 respectively. Despite bleeding profusely, Nzomo says that he was ferried alongside Kavindu, to the police station while locked in the boot of a car. “I was later locked up in the cells for almost two hours before being transferred to Kitui District Hospital,” he told The Standard on Saturday.

Swelling

Kavindu, who had a swelling to the head after the police brutality, was transferred to Ruai Police Station and locked up for five days with no medical attention accorded.

The CID head of investigations Mohamed Amin, later ordered the duo’s release after the missing girl’s mother failed to positively identify them as the kidnappers. Kitui County CID director Julius Sunkuli, later admitted that the two were a case of mistaken identity. The Kitui incident had more victims as Mr Amos Mulatya had his left middle finger severed by a stray bullet while at his place of work.

In Nairobi, each footstep Mr Dalla Wario makes reminds him of the night he was struck by a stray bullet as police pursued gangsters in Eastleigh, Nairobi, a year ago. The 46-year-old watchman says he was at a fuel station when he was shot at around midnight, sustaining injuries to the back of the thigh and one finger.

Wario, who now has a footdrop as a result of nerve damage, says the officer who took him to Kenya National Hospital vanished on arrival. He says efforts to seek help from Pangani Police Station over the incident were futile. “They said it was a case of bad luck and that the Government would compensate me. The OCS gave me bus fare and the case was recorded in the occurrence book (OBNO 6/24/8/2012),” he says.

Yet Wario was lucky as Mr Christopher Nzomo, sustained a life-threatening bullet injury when police faced off with robbers in Machakos town on April 4.

Nzomo was among onlookers gathered outside Kiilu Musa shopping mall as police flushed out robbers who had been locked inside the mall.

His life took a turn for the worse when police opened fire to disperse the crowd that had milled around their vehicle to catch a glimpse of a suspect they had arrested.

Bleeding profusely

He says as the crowd started dispersing, he fell into a ditch, with another man landing on him soon after. They were bleeding profusely, after they were hit by a stray bullet. Nzomo, 29, was rushed to Machakos Level Five Hospital where an x-ray scan showed he had a bullet lodged in the spine.

He was transferred to KNH where spinal specialists warned that it would be risky to operate on him as this could lead to paralysis. After three months in hospital, he was recently discharged with a paralysed left leg, and a damning doctor’s report that the bullet is pressing on a nerve and has already caused a fracture in the spine.

He is yet to lodge an official complaint. Mr Benson Kilonzo, 63, also survived death in the same incident. He says he had gone to withdraw cash from an ATM opposite the mall when guards told him the bank had been briefly closed due to a security operation.

Kilonzo heard two gunshots just as he was walking to his office. “As I was turning back, I felt sharp pain on my left shoulder. On checking, I realised I was bleeding,” he recounts.

Fearing to raise alarm, the businessman says he walked straight to the nearby Machakos Level Five Hospital, where he found the police had already brought two men struck by stray bullets.

A scan showed he had a bullet lodged next to a bone and nerve and doctors warned that an operation to remove it would cause paralysis to the hand. “The Machakos OCS told me was I had the option of suing the State and would get compensation if my case was successful,” he states.

-The Standard

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