Drama ensued at the Ukwala sub county mortuary in Ugenya last Thursday, when the family of a man who died in the hands of the police rejected attempts to conduct postmortem on the deceased without a family doctor.
Business at the at the mortuary came to a standstill when members of the late Sylvester Otieno Odoi’s family and human rights activists stormed the facility as a doctor, in company of the police prepared for an autopsy.
Led by the father of the deceased, Geoffrey Odoi, neighbour Julius Onyango and the field coordinator for Malaika Foundation, Fredrick Ojiro, the family demanded an explanation from the police why they hurriedly scheduled a postmortem despite an earlier agreement that the same be carried out next Monday, November 4 in the presence of an independent doctor from the Independent Medico – Legal Unit to represent the family interests.
The family maintained that they will not participate in the exercise or accept the results, adding that they suspected that the security agencies had compromised the doctor so that he could release skewed results.
After a bitter exchange with the family, the policemen and the hospital authorities bowed to pressure and postponed the exercise.
Speaking to the media later at the family home in Sifuyo, West Ugenya, Malaika Foundation field coordinator, Fred Ojiro accused the Ukwala based police of bias in their investigations on the cause of the 25 year old man’s death in the hands of their counterparts based at Ratado police post.
He said they were aware of efforts to tamper with evidence and blame the deceased’s death on alcohol, adding that some administrators had even bought an illicit liquor, known as “Milingilo” from a neighboring village in Busia County and forwarded it to the investigators alleging that it was found with the late Sylvester Odoi.
Ojiro said that human rights activists were planning a three day vigil outside Ukwala police station to push for the arrest of a village elder and policemen connected to the death of the father of three if they will not have acted within the next five days.
“The policemen and the village elder have been going round intimidating witnesses and we demand that they be arrested immediately,” he said, adding that the issue must be investigated by an independent body.
Ojiro said that Malaika Foundation had already gotten in touch with several human rights and independent oversight bodies who have accepted to take up the matter on behalf of the destitute family of the deceased.
The west Ugenya ward administrator, Fred Abondo Kakijana called for immediate overhaul of the officers manning the police post, saying that they had turned the facility into a torture and bribe collection den.
Abondo said that incidents where people are arrested and tortured at the post so as to force their families to part with bribes to secure their release were alarming.
“If the government cannot take action against these officers, then it can as well close this post. We cannot have officers, charged with the task of securing us, turning against the community, beating and maiming us with impunity,” said the former West Ugenya councilor in the defunct Siaya county council.
The late Sylvester Otieno Odoi was arrested last week by a village elder in company of a man who had alleged that he had stolen his old iron sheets.
He was frog marched to the Ratado police post, where villagers claim he was tortured and beaten senseless by the police.
According to his father, attempts to have his first born son released fell on deaf ears at the officers demanded a sh3,000 bribe.
Siaya county police commander, Francis Kooli last week confirmed the incident, saying that the directorate of criminal investigations was handling the matter.
Kooli however said that initial reports filed by his officers on the ground indicated that the suspect had been arrested for allegedly stealing old iron sheets but was released after the owner said he did not wish to proceed with the case.
The police boss said that the late left the police post walking but was later to be taken to the nearby Sifuyo health centre while drunk by family members, a statement that is contrary to family members and villagers’ narrative that their son was arrested at around 11 am and passed on at night in the hands of the policemen.
“When we saw him at the police post shortly before he died that night, he was foaming while groaning in pain. He had been handcuffed and hanged on a window,” said Odoi who appealed to the government to come to his aid and ensure that his son gets justice.
By Philip Onyango