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Sh2,000 bribe and sexual abuse cut short teenage student’s life

Had he not visited Narasha Forest in Eldama Ravine Sub-County, Baringo County last week, 19-year-old Stephen Mwangi would probably be in class today settling into his secondary school Maji Mazuri this first week of the second trimester.

Like the rest of the country’s learners, the third grader was expected to report to his school on Monday as schools across the country reopened.

However, a phone call from his mother from Narasha Forest, Maji Mazuri, on Wednesday last week, triggered a series of events that culminated in her tragic death a day after schools reopened.

In the forest, the teenager was allegedly attacked by five Kenya Forest Service (KFS) officers.

He was seriously injured and was treated at Eldama Ravine Sub-County Hospital and later transferred to Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) where he died.

According to medical reports, the eldest son of a family of six had a blood clot on his head, caused by a crack in his skull. His ribs were also broken.

It all started last Wednesday when the deceased’s mother, Mary Wambui, went to the Narasha Forest Farm accompanied by her 11-year-old son to prune some trees.

After a day’s work, Ms. Wambui spotted and collected a tree stump in the forest to take home, intending to split it for firewood.

But as fate would have it, the KFS agents accosted and arrested her while accusing her of engaging in illegal logging activities.

According to Ms Wambui, the two police officers arrested her and demanded a bribe of 2,000 shillings in exchange for her release.

She only had 500 shillings at the time of her arrest. The agent refused to accept the money.

Desperate, she called a neighbor and was able to raise another 1,000 shillings. Then she called her eldest son, Mwangi, to bring him the remaining 500 shillings.

While waiting for the money to be handed over, the two agents were joined by three colleagues.

According to the mother, the officers kicked and hit her, saying she was being difficult.

When her son arrived with the money, he was horrified to see his handcuffed mother being assaulted and sexually harassed by the police.

All this happened in the presence of Mrs. Wambui’s youngest son.

When the late Mwangi asked why the police were harassing his mother, they turned on him, hitting him with crude weapons, including a metal rod, before firing three shots into the air.

Fearing that they would die at the hands of the police, Ms. Wambui’ raised the alarm which attracted passers-by.

“By that time, my son had been beaten to a pulp. He couldn’t cry anymore. Tears were streaming down her cheeks,” said the distraught mother.

The police then requested a vehicle from their station and upon arrival took the mother and son to the Eldama Ravine police station where they placed her in a cell and told her that they were taking her son seriously injured in hospital.

On Thursday morning, Ms Wambui’s mother (the late Mwangi’s maternal grandmother) went to Eldama Ravine Sub-County Hospital where she found her grandson in a critical condition.

He lay unconscious on the hospital bed, handcuffed, under the surveillance of the same police officers who had attacked him.

The mother was due to be arraigned in court in the morning, but due to her son’s health condition, she was asked to pay a cash bail of 6,000 shillings to secure his release and go and take care of her ailing son .

“I was so shocked to find him seriously ill. He didn’t even speak,” Ms Wambui said.

She returned to the police station to record a statement about her son’s condition and was told she would be allowed to complete a P3 form once certain tests had been carried out.

On Friday, she left her sick son in the care of his grandmother and went home to get money so she could ask for a referral as his condition deteriorated.

The police had told the doctors that they had no money to refer the teenager to the MTRH, thus placing the responsibility on his relatives.

“I no longer had money to take him for specialized treatment but I had to do everything to save his life,” Ms Wambui told the Nation.

She had sold a donkey and two sheep and I managed to earn some money. She then paid Sh8,000 for the ambulance to Eldoret, where she had been referred.

The journey to Eldoret took place on Saturday, with two KFS officers also on board.

At the referral hospital, the teenager underwent examinations and received a few injections before being admitted.

“The MTRH doctors were shocked to see my seriously ill son still handcuffed and asked me to look for the police officers who came to untie him. His hands were already swollen,” she said.

The teenager later developed breathing difficulties and was subjected to a CT scan before being taken to intensive care as his condition worsened.

Even though her son was now fighting for his life in the intensive care unit, the KFS officers remained at the facility until hospital staff asked them to leave.

Ms Wambui’s son’s condition deteriorated and he died around 11pm on Monday evening.

The five KFS officers have since been arrested and brought to justice in connection with the student’s death.

Acting on behalf of OCPD Eldama Ravine, Félician Nafula confirmed the arrests, adding that the case had been transferred to the DCI for further procedures.

Following the incident, angry residents of Maji Mazuri staged protests on Tuesday, accusing KFS officers of persistent harassment, particularly targeting women, children and the elderly.

“The mother of the deceased had asked her son to bring her the money requested by the officers, but upon arriving in the forest, the boy found his mother being harassed, which prompted him to intervene” , said Ms. Susan Wacuka.

“I visited the deceased at Eldama Ravine Hospital and his condition was very bad. Surprisingly, he couldn’t speak but was still handcuffed. How inhumane were the police officers to have beaten this young man to death?” she asked.

Maji Mazuri MCA Solomon Kuria has expressed concern over cases of violence by KFS operatives against residents in the area, noting that they target individuals collecting firewood in the forest.

The MCA called for a thorough investigation into the incident and for the suspects to face appropriate legal consequences for their actions.