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Rose Waruguru is sliding into depression and often gathers suicidal thoughts because of her son’s comatose state, caused by police brutality during enforcement of coronavirus curfew.

Joseph Macharia, her 35-year-old second-born, is lying wounded, motionless, speechless, and blind after police thrashing on May 23 damaged his head and nearly killed him.

Doctors don’t know if or when Macharia will regain his mobility, speech, and vision. They are asking Waruguru to keep the faith and pray.

But Waruguru is growing hopeless. Her son’s health is not improving, seven months after the attack.

“My son is as good as dead,” Waruguru told MUHURI.

Macharia, a mechanic from Eldoret, visited her mother at Changamwe, Mombasa, late March.

He could not travel back after the government in April locked down some counties, including Mombasa, over a spike in Covid-19 infections. The ban on intercounty movements followed a dusk-to-dawn nationwide curfew imposed on March 27.

Near lifeless state

On May 23, Macharia moved out late to buy drugs when he bumped into hordes of police. Terrified, Macharia returned sprinting but lost his footing and stumbled.

Police, with a reputation for being heavy-handed, descended on Macharia with wooden clubs. They struck his head and left him a near lifeless state.

That night, Waruguru waited for his son to return but he did not. She could not seek him in the cover of darkness—Waruguru feared cops who at the time had buffered the scene where they had knocked Macharia down.

What Waruguru did not know is that his son—who 20 minutes earlier had an ox’s health—was struggling to keep his failing heartbeat steady.

Macharia, frail, confused and soaked in blood that gushed from his openings, passed out. Police left him unattended.

It took courageous neighbours, concerned about Macharia’s deteriorating state, to come out and offer him first aid.

The only operational hospital at the time—Port Reitz—was far. There was no immediate car to rush Macharia to the facility. And even if one was sourced, none was ready to face police owing to their violent nature.

“I received a phone call from a neighbour the following morning informing me that they rescued my son after police beat him. They said he was in a critical condition, so I rushed where he was,” Waruguru said.

Failing health

Doctors admitted Macharia at Port Reitz’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for several weeks.

An emergency x-ray revealed a severed head due to battering by an object like a baton. The finding was consistent with eyewitness’ accounts, which described the type of weapons police used against the victim—baton—and where they struck him—head.

Macharia spent three-and-a-half months in the hospital without his health improving. Doctors discharged him for home treatment. His medical bill was Sh75,000.

At home, Macharia’s condition worsened and Waruguru took him at Mewa Hospital, Majengo. His treatment cost was Sh300,000.

Now, Macharia is at her mother’s one-room rental home in Changamwe where Waruguru has transformed it into a makeshift ward. She has fitted Macharia’s bed with a temporary drip stand for admission of drip whenever need be.

Waruguru has stopped working to nurse her son round the clock. She bathes him and changes his diapers, turns him when sleeping and massages his fragile body. Waruguru feeds her son ground food through tubes.

Waruguru feeds her son ground food through tubes. Photo: Ernest Cornel.

Deadliest police terror

Coronavirus curfew has turned into the deadliest episode of horror, a display of an iron fist policing and has led to at least 21 deaths by police bullets, punches, batons, and teargas.

The deceased either sought medical attention, worked, tried to get home after stretched shifts, or sat in their homes when police killed them.

The law requires police to subject prisoners through a due process, but cops breached many times. An in-custody murder of 22-year-old, Erick Ng’ethe, occurred in Kwale on April 1 at 9 pm, five months before his admission at local university.

Macharia is among hundreds of innocent civilians that police brutalized and are yet to get justice—or may never receive it at all. Macharia’s attack was reported to the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA)—a body mandated to investigate police misconduct—under reference IPOA/CMU/1649/2020. IPOA has not acted.

None of the attacking cops has faced charges over their crimes. And there are no provable public records to suggest these criminals are subjects of an internal disciplinary process—or whether they will ever get punished.