By Khalifa Hemed
Published October 17, 2017
Kenyan police killed as many as 50 people and injured hundreds more in some parts of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, in response to protests following the August 8, 2017 general elections.
In a 37-page report titled Kill Those Criminals: Security Forces’ Violations in Kenya’s August 2017 Elections that documents what they term ‘excessive use of force by police against protesters and residents in some of Nairobi’s opposition strongholds after the elections, Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) say police shot or beat protesters to death.
Saying some Kenyans “died of asphyxiation from inhaling teargas and pepper spray, from being hit by teargas canisters fired at close range, or from being trampled to death by fleeing crowds,” AI and HRW call for “all those responsible for unlawful use of force [to be] held to account.”
“Dozens of people were killed and many more left with life-altering injuries in attacks by the police against opposition supporters,” said Michelle Kagari, deputy regional director for East Africa, the Horn, and the Great Lakes at Amnesty International. “This deadly use of excessive force has become a hallmark of police operations in Kenya and must be decisively stopped.”
AI and HRW say that “armed police – most of them from the General Service Unit (GSU) and Administration Police (AP) – carried out law enforcement operations in Mathare, Kibera, Babadogo, Dandora, Korogocho, Kariobangi, and Kawangware neighborhoods in Nairobi between August 9 and 13. They shot directly at some protesters and also opened fire, apparently randomly, on crowds. Victims and witnesses told researchers that as protesters ran away, police pursued them, kicking down doors and chasing people down alleyways, shooting and beating many to death.”
While Stephanie Moraa Nyarangi–a nine-year-old girl–was shot dead while standing on the balcony of her family’s apartment and Jeremiah Maranga–a 50-year-old security guard later died from police beating, AI and HRW say Lilian Khavere–a housekeeper who was eight months pregnant–was trampled to death by a fleeing crowd after she fainted from inhaling teargas.
The two bodies say police in these neighborhoods also tried to prevent journalists and human rights activists from reporting the violations.
“In one case, in Kibera, a police officer smashed a foreign journalist’s camera when he tried to photograph police beating a youth leader. Police also beat up a local activist and smashed his camera when he tried to film them in Mathare,” AI and HRW report.
The two organizations say wrote to the Inspector-General of Police detailing their findings and requesting a meeting but received no response. They also made several requests to interview the police spokesperson, all of which were turned down.
“The Kenyan authorities should publicly acknowledge the violations, conduct speedy, impartial, thorough, and transparent investigations, and take the necessary steps under the law to hold those responsible to account as a key step toward justice for the victims,” said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The police attacked opposition supporters and then tried to cover up their attacks. The authorities should ensure that this kind of arbitrary and abusive use of force by police does not recur in the repeat election.”