Shocking scenes of violence erupted in Kenya today as police fired tear gas to break up demonstrations urging electoral reforms ahead of the general elections next year.
Police were caught on camera beating some protesters who had gathered outside the offices of Kenya’s electoral commission in the capital Nairobi.
In the horrifying scenes that ensued, officers then chased them through downtown streets and alleyways.
Some protesters hid in nearby buildings but riot police flushed them out toward waiting colleagues who then beat them with wooden clubs and kicked them as they tried to flee.
There have been several such protests in recent weeks.
Protests were also held in other Kenyan towns including Kisumu and Kisii, with police there firing tear gas to break up the crowds, local media reported.
Raila Odinga, a former prime minister who lost his latest bid for the presidency in 2013, accuses the commission of being biased towards President Uhuru Kenyatta.
He has demanded that a new slate of commissioners be named ahead of the next election 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 in August 2017 is shaping up as a rematch of the 2013 election, with 71-year old Odinga expected to try to unseat Kenyatta, 54.
aul Wanjama, police chief for Nairobi central police station, said officers detained at least 15 demonstrators who will be charged tomorrow. He did not say what charges they face.
Odinga said polls in 2017 cannot be free and fair if the current election commission remains in place and called for the commissioners to be removed from office.
‘We have said now and again and we repeat here: (Electoral Board) commissioners must get out of office, they cannot be trusted to conduct a credible election,’ said lawmaker James Orengo, one of the protest leaders, to a crowd of about 500.
Odinga was about to address the crowd when the police intervened, forcing the gathering to disperse.
Kenya does not hold its next presidential and parliamentary polls until August 2017, but politicians are already trying to galvanise their supporters in a nation where violence erupted after the 2007 vote and the opposition disputed the 2013 result.
The opposition CORD coalition, led by Odinga, has accused the IEBC of bias and said its members should quit. IEBC officials have dismissed the charge and say they will stay.
‘For free and fair election, IEBC must go,’ read a banner held aloft by one demonstrator.