NAIROBI - Kenyan police are coming under fire for their brutal response to an opposition protest Monday after photos and video of police beating protesters sparked outrage.
Three Mondays in a row, Kenya’s main opposition coalition has demonstrated at the electoral commission in Nairobi, calling for it to be disbanded before next year’s polls.
Each time, riot police dispersed protesters with tear gas and water cannons. But this week, police kicked and clubbed protesters as they ran, according to photos and videos posted online.
Those include images of an officer stomping on a unconscious man’s head. The man survived, but Kenyans have taken to Twitter to react with the hashtag #StopPoliceBrutality.
Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero called for swift action. “We have said that the Police Oversight Authority must investigate this and the people who meted out violence against innocent people who were engaging in peaceful protest must be prosecuted,” he said.
This is not the first time the police have been accused of abuses. The Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU) released a study late last year that found police were responsible for nearly 300 gun-related killings since the start of 2014.
Executive Director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) George Kegoro said excessive use of force cannot be tolerated.
“We would like to get assurances from the police department," he said, "that as the country heads towards elections and mobilization of large crowds happen, this is not going to be the kind of response that we see from the police department. So we must celebrate and preserve the rights of citizens to protest.”
The Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) is looking into Monday’s violence, according to board member Tom Kagwe.
“Already investigations have been launched," said Kagwe , "and we will see which officer was culpable. If we can not find the particular individual who is culpable, we will file a case with the highest responsibility in line of command.”
The Inspector General of Police has also ordered an investigation, though activists say similar orders in recent years have yielded little action or reform.