A tease that was ended by a bullet
Published on January 20, 2008, 12:00 am
By Harold Ayodo
One moment, George William Onyango, 25, was dancing and poking fun at police officers. Seconds later he was dead — shot in cold blood.
His relatives, who had been waiting for him to return home for lunch that afternoon, watched him being felled by a bullet, in a television news clip. “It was devastating. We thought it was a dream. We never imagined his sense of humour could cost him his life,” says Mr John Olago, Onyango’s elder brother. Onyango’s death capped a week of tension, chaos and bloodshed that saw seven other people killed in Kisumu during demonstrations in post-elections violence.
It was a week fraught with bitterness over police brutality that also led to the gunning down of 13-year-old Saim Ahmed as he played in Arina estate, Kisumu. Yesterday, Olago narrated how the footage on KTN Prime on Wednesday moved them to tears. “We still cannot believe Onyango, who was unarmed, was shot by someone who went ahead to kick him,” a teary Olago says. He remembers Onyango as a humorous person who made everyone laugh even when times were hard.
The family at Migosi estate is demanding explanations and compensation from the Government. Onyango, who was with another young man, Ismael, was shot as he fled from police officers who were breaking up a riot at Kondele. “They ran from the police, took cover behind the Kondele post office police. They did not carry any weapon, even a stone,” says an eyewitness who sought anonymity. He added: “They teased the police, not knowing that another officer was stalking them, his loaded AK-47 gun on the ready.” “Ndiyo hao! Piga!” (They are here! Shoot!) One officer could be heard telling his colleague. A few shots rent the air, followed by cries of ” you have shot me!” then silence. Police lobbed teargas canisters before gunshots rent the air as the law enforcers dispersed demonstrators at Kondele.
Onyango fell down after he was shot. He momentarily stood up unsteadily and asked the officer why he had shot him. He fell to the ground and removed his cap. “You have shot…why have you shot me?” He asked his attacker who never seemed to listen. The officer fired more bullets at protesters as Onyango and Ismael lay on the ground. The policeman lowered his gun and kicked Onyango twice, before casually walking away. The two were taken to the hospital in a police car.
A nurse at the Nyanza Provincial Hospital, who attended to Onyango, said he was shot between the shoulder and the neck and died while undergoing surgery to remove the bullet. At least 70 people have been shot gunshot wounds since the post-election chaos rocked Kisumu on December 29.
The TV footage of Onyango’s death has sparked outrage from political and religious leaders as well as rights groups. They have appealed to police to stop extra-judicial killings. Onyango was shot in the same estate where police shot dead Paul Limera, a Standard Seven pupil, during riots ahead of the 2005 Referendum. The family of Limera — a former pupil at Josana Academy in Kisumu— is still awaiting justice, three years down the line.
Olago recalls how his younger brother cracked jokes in the house before he left that fateful day. He says statements by police spokesman Mr Eric Kiraithe has added to their sorrow. “We were shocked when Kiraithe said the shooting was like a scene in a Rambo movie… people do not die in movies but my brother did,” regrets Olago. Kiraithe said the police force could not believe in the recorded evidence. “My brother was a very funny and jovial man…we are yet to come to terms with his death as a family. It is hard to believe that he died like an animal,” says Olago. Onyango, who was single, worked as a technical supervisor at Skyline Motors in Kisumu. He was among the demonstrators who protested against the alleged fl awed presidential results. the three days of mass action countrywide.
Onyango, the sixth born in a family of eight, attended Ogango Primary School in Kisumu before he proceeded to Ratta Mixed Secondary School in Kisumu Rural constituency. “He started doing casual work after school and helped the family financially since our mother does not work and dad died years back,” says Olago. He adds that his younger brother had dreams and hopes of a better life for his family.
“It is unfortunate that he was shot dead just when his dreams had started becoming true…he was promoted at his workstation,” says Olago. “A post mortem has been performed at the New Nyanza Provincial General Hospital…we want to bury him soon,” he adds. The West Kenya Law Society (WKLS) says the killing of Onyango amounts to a crime against humanity. WKLS chairman, Mr James Mwamu, says it would use the incident to sue the Government for crimes against humanity at The Hague. Mwamu says the extra-judicial killing(s) of Onyango and several others by police are a gross breach of Article 6 of the Rome Statute of the International Court. The Article defines genocide as any act committed with the intention to destroy a national, ethical, racial or religious group by killing any of its members. “We therefore want to submit that the State is intentionally committing acts of genocide against the people of western region,” Mwamu says.