Human rights groups say as many as 67 people died during a police crackdown on protesters following the annulment of the August presidential election in the East African nation.
In a report released on Monday, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said at least 33 people died in the Kenyan capital Nairobi during crackdown on opposition supporters. According to the report, police in Nairobi used “excessive force” and that “most of (the 33 who died) were killed as a result of action by the police.”
“Researchers found that although police behaved appropriately in some instances, in many others they shot or beat protesters to death,” the report added.
Among those killed were a nine-year-old child shot dead while standing on a balcony and a woman who was eight months pregnant and was trampled to death after fainting from inhaling tear gas, the report noted.
The report came after researchers from the two rights groups interviewed 151 victims, witnesses, police and others in Nairobi’s low-income areas known to be opposition strongholds.
People said police pursued them, kicking down doors and shooting and beating some to death.
Elsewhere in the report, the rights bodies said that security agents had carried out operations in Mathare, Kibera, Babadogo, Dandora, Korogocho, Kariobangi and Kawangware slums between August 9 and 13.
Michelle Kagari, a deputy regional director with Amnesty International, accused Kenyan police of using excessive force to curb protests. “This deadly use of excessive force has become a hallmark of police operations in Kenya
and must be decisively stopped before the next election takes place.”
HRW had earlier documented 12 killings after the vote by police in western Kenya, the main opposition stronghold.
During the violence, the parents of a six-month-old baby in western Kenya told Reuters their child was clubbed by police in her home and died later in hospital from brain trauma.
The report is likely to bolster the case of Kenyan activists who accuse police of brutality and extrajudicial killings. Activists say few officers are charged and convictions are extremely rare.
Meanwhile, Kenyan police have disputed the findings by the rights groups. The National Police Service said in a statement that the report was “totally misleading and based on falsehoods.”
People run across a road to escape tear gas fired by police to disperse demonstrators on October 13, 2017, in Nairobi, as opposition supporters took to the streets for the third day in a week. (Photo by AFP)
Immediately after the unrest in August, police said only “criminals” and “thugs” had been killed or injured.
On Thursday, the government banned demonstrations in the central business district of Nairobi, the coastal city of Mombasa and the western city of Kisumu, where protesters had been gathering twice a week.
The angry demonstrators have been calling on the election board to make reforms to ensure a fair poll.
Reacting to the developments, a group of UN human rights experts called for the government’s ban on protests to be listed and denounced a “pattern of police brutality” in response to the recent demonstrations.
Kenya’s Supreme Court voided the August election, citing irregularities, without finding any individual at the election board responsible.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, who won the vote only to have his victory annulled, has accused the court of bringing the country close to “judicial chaos.”
Opposition leader Raila Odinga and his supporters have turned their ire on the election board for its role in the cancelled poll.
With 10 days to go until a scheduled re-run of the vote, politicians from both sides have traded insults and accusations, raising fears of further turmoil in the regional economic and transport hub.
The opposition is threatening to boycott the October 26 re-run if election board officials are not removed and if parliament passes a proposed amendment to the election law that would prevent the court from annulling the results again.