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Kenya investigates 'brutal' police crackdown on election protesters

A Kenyan police chief has promised an investigation into the actions of police officers after evidence came to light that they used excessive force at a rally. Protesters want reform of the electoral commission.

Kenya's Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet told reporters on Tuesday that the conduct of police officers would be investigated after video footage showed protesters being brutally beaten.

"I condemn the lawlessness visited on the public by rioters yesterday and an internal inquiry is underway to determine whether any police officer broke any law while quelling the riots," Boinnet told reporters.

In one instance, officers were seen viciously beating and kicking an unresponsive protester who had fallen to the ground, with his head slumped against a curb. The man - who appeared to have been trying to escape before being grounded - was later reported to have died, although this was not confirmed.

Demonstrators had gathered outside the offices of Kenya's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), demanding its dissolution. Some threw stones at police, and the protesters were

chased by officers wielding clubs as tear gas was fired.

Police drove some demonstrators from nearby buildings where they had shelted, beating them repeatedly.

International condemnation

Isaac Okero, president of the Law Society of Kenya, condemned the "bludgeoning of an apparently unconscious and unresponsive, unarmed man. The officers who have violated the rights of citizens by their brutality must face both disciplinary process and criminal prosecution," said Okero.

Denouncing the police actions, Amnesty International said an investigation should be carried out by Kenya's Independent Police Oversight Authority. "The brutal beatings by police yesterday amount to arbitrary and abusive use of force, which is illegal under Kenyan, regional and international law," said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty's East Africa regional director.

Hundreds of protesters were prevented from reaching the IEBC offices by police wearing body armor and carrying shields.

Commission accused of bias

The commission has been accused of bias towards incumbent

President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Opposition politician

Raila Odinga

- a former prime minister who challenged Kenyatta for the presidency - has demanded that new commissioners be named ahead of elections next year.

Odinga lost to Kenyatta by more than 800,000 votes, and is accusing the commission of irregularities that skewed the results. However, the aftermath of the election at the time passed off peacefully in comparison with the disputed 2007 election, which descended into fierce ethnic violence that killed more than 1,000 people.

rc/jm (AFP, dpa)

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