Homeless, harmless and shot dead in Mathare slums - Beaking Kenya News

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Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Homeless, harmless and shot dead in Mathare slums

Bodaboda riders protests against the killing of a harmless homelss man in Mathare slums on June 2.
He was old and frail, missing most of his teeth, usually drunk or tipsy but always friendly. He never bothered anyone in Mathare where he slept outside a shop with his knees curled up to his chin.
He’d been a fixture for nine years, always collecting plastic bags, and no one knew his name. They just called him Vaite.
On the night of Madaraka Day - Monday night - when Kenyans celebrated freedom gained 57 years ago, Mathare residents violated the 7pm curfew to protest the fatal shooting of Vaite. They protested on Tuesday as well. 
They said he was killed by the police.
Police said they are investigating but added that Vaite was probably shot by thugs.
“I was in my house when I heard gunshots at close range. I opened my window and peeped outside. I saw two people get into a white Probox,” a witness said, asking for anonymity for fear of reprisal.
“The Probox patrols this area almost every night and we know it belongs to police officers from Pangani police station,” the witness said.
After the vehicle left, residents rushed out to see if someone had been injured - only to find Vaite bleeding.
“He was shot three times - on the hand, the chest and the stomach. We found his body at about 8.30pm,” human rights activist Kennedy Chindi said.
“The residents were so angry they took the body and hid it near the Mathare River because they intended to use it for a demonstration the following day,” he said.
The police, who responded to maintain order during the protests, discovered the body and took it away.
Police spokesperson Charles Owino said they are investigating the killing.
It’s possible that thugs, not the police, shot the homeless man, Owino said.
This narrative continued on a police WhatsApp group for officers in the city.
“He was not shot by the police but by armed robbers who shot him and left him to die on the road,” an officer in the group said.
Resident Vincent Ouma said he has been seeing Vaite in Mathare since 2010 and doesn’t know his name, where he came from, or his story.
“Everyone calls him Vaite. Most of the time, he was either drunk or tipsy, talking to himself, but never a bother,” Ouma said.
Vaite slept on a veranda outside a shop on Juja Road, and no matter how far he was, residents said, every evening, he found his way to the same spot to sleep.
“Some nights, he was too drunk to put down his cardboard or get to the veranda. He fell to the ground and passed out,” Daniel Wafula said. He stays a few blocks from where Vaite camped.
Most days, Vaite wore baggy jeans, an oversize faded navy blue T-shirt and a pair of old tuk-tuk sandals.
“On his shoulder, he always carried a big sack full of plastic bags. We loved to tease him because he was always straining under the weight of the empty sack, which he complained fetched too little to fill his glass,” Wafula said.
Residents remember him as a shambling character, always cheerful.
Chindi said slum residents have no freedom to celebrate as they are still “chained by police brutality with no hope for justice”.
The Independent Policing Oversight Authority released a statement saying it has received 87 complaints against police officers since March 27. That’s when heightened security was put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
After preliminary investigations, the Authority said it had linked 15 deaths and 31 assaults and harassment directly to police officers during curfew enforcement.
Last week, Samuel Maina had his nose broken and his face injured after he was assaulted by police just minutes before curfew. They also allegedly stole from him.
Last month, Vitalis Owino was shot as he went to answer a call of nature at a public toilet.
Yasin Moyo, 13, was killed by a stray bullet while seated on his home balcony with his mother and other siblings.
Police said the cases are under investigation.

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