A Nairobi family has demanded answers from the Prisons department over the death of a 27-year-old relative. Mark Nyamweya died at Industrial Area Prison last Tuesday after he failed to pay Sh200 fine. He could not pay the money to secure his release.
Nyamweya, alongside five others, were arraigned in Makadara and charged with being drunk and disorderly. He pleaded guilty and was fined Sh200, with an alternative sentence of seven days in custody. He was locked up.
His relatives say the circumstances surrounding his death were suspect.
Family spokesman Nelson Mageto on Saturday said Kayole’s Soweto police and Industrial Area Prison should come clean on Nyamweya’s death. Mageto questioned why his nephew was arrested with 42 others but only six of them were arraigned.
He took issue with the Soweto police for failing to inform them of his arrest. They were not aware that Nyamweya had been arrested and arraigned until they were informed of his demise, he said.
A police source from the prison said Nyamweya died after developing stomach problems. “He felt bad, complained of stomach problems. He was vomited and had diarrhoea before he died.”
The relatives were informed of the death by an officer from the prison who traced the club in which the deceased was arrested with the help of James Ongondi, who had been detained with Nyamweya.
“We were arrested last Saturday at 10am. We were 43 at the time of arrest but others were released at the police station,” Ongondi told the Star on Saturday.
They were booked under OB NO 21/6/7/2019 at 11am.
On Nyamweya’s condition, he said, “A police officer brought him some drugs and water, which he took at around 12am on Tuesday. At 4am, he again started groaning in pain. He cried until around 5am. We banged the door, but no officer responded.”
He said an officer brought porridge for Nyamweya at 6am. He took it and later died.
The relatives questioned the nature of the drug that was administered to Nyamweya, who diagnosed him, with what ailment and why the prison’s administration could not take him for emergency services.
His brother, Daniel, said they grew up orphans and Nyamweya had only stayed on Soweto estate for two months. He previously lived in Mathare North slum.
The family has sought help from the Independent Policing Oversight Authority, with claims the officers at the station were not cooperative.
In a letter, the authority has sought documents from the Soweto police station boss.
“The complainant requests for OB Number, extract and charge sheet as regard his nephew Mark Nyamweya who was arrested on July 8. He was committed to Industrial Area Prison and was found dead on July 9. Please accord him necessary assistance,” the letter dated July 11 reads.
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It was signed by IPOA’s complaints management officer.
However, on Saturday, Joseph Ngatia, an officer who was standing in for the OCS, said he would only give the OB number. He directed the relatives to return the letter to IPOA so their investigators do their job.
“You are not IPOA officials. Neither are you police officers. We can’t give you the information as stated in the letter,” Ngatia said.
They walked out of the station dejected.
At Moloini Club where Nyamweya had been drinking, the owner said she gave the officers Sh16,000 to release her clients.
“The officers arrested 43 people from this club. They were ferried to the station in three Land Cruisers. I did not follow them immediately since I feared I would also be arrested,” the woman, known by her club’s name Moloini, said.
“They demanded Sh15,000 but I first paid Sh13,000 through a junior officer. I was then told that all of those arrested couldn’t be released at once. I was later again told to go to the station with Sh3,000, but 10 people remained in custody.”
Four others were released last Monday morning and forced to carry sand at a construction site within the station. Only six suspects, including Nyamweya, were taken to court.
“That’s what they do. They take the money but fail to release everyone. They take a few to court to be seen like they are working,” Moloini said.
Nairobi regional commander Philip Ndolo said they were neither aware of the incident nor the claims.
Ndolo, however, said they will investigate the death and the bribery claims against the Soweto officers.
GEORGE OWITI/The Star