Kenya opens probe over police violations against protesters

Kenya opens an investigation into police violations against protesters who were demanding changes to the electoral commission system.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Kenyan police beat a protester during clashes in Nairobi, Kenya May 16, 2016.

Kenya's police chief ordered an internal investigation on Tuesday a day after officers were seen viciously beating an unresponsive fallen protester as they broke up demonstrations.

An internal investigation has been opened by the request of Kenya's police chief a day after police violation during a protest.

Police fired tear gas and beat opposition demonstrators with truncheons on Monday in order to stop protesters in front of the electoral commission in Nairobi. 

Kenyan policemen beat protesters during clashes in Nairobi, Kenya May 16, 2016.

"I condemn the lawlessness visited on the public by rioters yesterday and an internal inquiry is underway to determine whether any police officer broke any law while quelling the riots," Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet told reporters.

A video of the incident shows a man in a green sweatshirt running from police before falling to the ground. Three officers then take turns striking him with batons and kicking his motionless body as it lies slumped on the curb.

Hundreds of protesters were prevented from reaching the offices of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) by police wearing body armour and carrying shields. There have been several such protests in recent weeks.

"The officers who have violated the rights of citizens by their brutality must face both disciplinary process and criminal prosecution," said Isaac Okero, president of the Law Society of Kenya, condemning the "bludgeoning of an apparently unconscious and unresponsive, unarmed man".

Amnesty International denounced the attack and called on Kenya's Independent Police Oversight Authority to investigate.

"The brutal beatings by police yesterday amount to arbitrary and abusive use of force, which is illegal under Kenyan, regional and international law,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty's East Africa regional director.

Protesters run away from the police during clashes in Nairobi, Kenya May 16, 2016.

'Keep this nation peaceful' 

Raila Odinga, a former prime minister who lost his bid for the presidency in 2013, accuses the election commission of bias towards President Uhuru Kenyatta and has demanded new commissioners to be named ahead of elections due in August 2017.

Kenyatta beat Odinga by more than 800,000 votes to win the presidency in 2013.

Odinga and civil society groups accused the electoral commission of a series of irregularities that they said skewed the results.

The election nonetheless passed off peacefully, in contrast to the country's disputed 2007 elections which degenerated into fierce inter-ethnic violence that killed more than 1,100 people after Odinga's supporters challenged his defeat by Mwai Kibaki.

The next election is shaping up as a rematch of 2013, with 71-year-old Odinga aiming to unseat Kenyatta, 54.

"At this time all the country's leaders, now more than ever, must engage in dialogue that will help keep this nation peaceful," Okero said.

"They must desist from inflammatory statements that appear to sanction either excessive and violent police action or criminal conduct by citizens. They owe this to all of us."