Three Reported Dead After Protesters in Kenya Clash With Police in Dispute Over Election

The deaths came as opposition protesters called for the replacement of the country's election commission, which they say is biased.
May 23, 2016, 5:45pm
Photo by Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

Protests in Kenya escalated today as violent clashes with police left at least three people dead, while a security crackdown continued despite warnings over police brutality after shocking images emerged last week of officers assaulting protesters.

It was the fourth demonstration during the past month, with protesters, led by the main opposition party, calling for the resignation of Kenya's commission responsible for regulating elections ahead of next year's general poll.

The East African nation has seen political tensions soar over the past three weeks as protests calling for the reform of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). The protests are in reaction to several corruption allegations involving the IEBC. The opposition claims the existing commission is biased and wants it replaced before the upcoming elections in August 2017. But IEBC chairman Isaack Hassan has refused to step down, saying he would only do so if Kenya's parliament found evidence of corruption and bias.

In Nairobi, riot police fired tear gas and water cannons to prevent anyone from coming close to Anniversary Towers — the IEBC headquarters — but elsewhere in Kenya there was bloodshed.

Related: Kenya Is Heading for a Repeat of Deadly Electoral Violence

Three people reportedly died after clashes with security forces, who allegedly used live ammunition in the western port city of Kisumu. Eyewitnesses said one victim was shot in the head by police, while others said police had physically assaulted demonstrators.

Photos posted online showed the man lying on the road in a pool of blood around his head. But a doctor who attended to the man at a local hospital said he did not die from gunshot wounds and suggested he had suffered injuries as protesters fled from police. Four others have been admitted to Kisumu East District hospital with gunshot wounds, according to local media outlet The Star.

In Siaya county, also in western Kenya, two people are reportedly dead after chaos broke out. One man was pronounced dead upon arriving at Siaya District Hospital, reportedly after being shot in the chest, while the second died at the scene. Five others are reportedly in a critical condition at Siaya County referral hospital.

In Migori county, five people were shot and taken to hospital in a critical condition, according to reports, while in Homa Bay County, two women were said to have been shot, local media reported.

Businesses in downtown Nairobi remained shut on Monday as the usually busy streets were almost emptied of traffic. At around 4pm local time, a convoy of cars took Raila Odinga, the leader of opposition coalition group Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), to the IEBC headquarters, where police used water cannons to push him and his supporters back. Odinga, along with CORD co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka, were unable to reach the building.

As riot police followed protesters through the streets of the city center, an employee in a tower building posted a photo on Twitter of a cracked window on the eighth floor, writing that it was caused by a bullet.

When you are going about your business in the office then a bullet goes through your window — Victoria Miguda (@AkinyiVee)May 23, 2016

In Kibera, Nairobi's largest slum, protesters burned tires in the streets while police lobbed tear gas as hundreds attempted to march into town to the IEBC offices. One journalist at the scene reported that tear gas was fired into a secondary school in the slum where 200 students were in class.

Inspector general of police Joseph Boinnet said he would not allow today's demonstrations to go ahead as the opposition leaders had not notified police of their plans.

While chaos ensued around the country, President Uhuru Kenyatta wrote on Twitter that he was attending a parade of new Kenya Defense Forces recruits.

Presided over the Passing-out Parade of Kenya Defence Forces recruits at the Recruits Training School in Eldoret. — Uhuru Kenyatta (@UKenyatta)May 23, 2016

Last week Kenyatta said protests would not work and told the opposition to use constitutional procedures if it wanted changes to the electoral commission, according to an official statement.

Following the clashes last week, the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights accused police of using "gruesome violence" to quell the protests, and police and the Independent Oversight Policing Authority have launched investigations into the violence.

Odinga has said that protests will continue every Monday until the IEBC is reformed, and has vowed to boycott the elections if action is not taken. Election observers fear if the issue is not resolved Kenya could see a repeat of the violence following the disputed 2007 election that left at least 1,400 dead.