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Kenya police fire tear gas on protesters urging electoral reform

Demonstrators in Nairobi calling for electoral reform faced police firing tear gas and were chased down as they fled. Opposition leader Raila Odinga has said next year's elections cannot be free or fair without reform.

The police chief for Nairobi central, Paul Wanjama, said at least 15 demonstrators were detained during the protests in central Nairobi on Monday. They are to be charged on Tuesday, although Wanjama did not say what accusations they would face.

Kenyan policeman beating a demonstrator in Nairobi

Kenyan policeman kicking a demonstrator in Nairobi

Officers armed with batons confronted hundreds of protesters outside the offices of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Monday's demonstration was the third clash over the issue in less than a month.

Odinga wrote on Twitter, "Despite the use of undue force by police, our peaceful pickets shall continue every week until the IEBC is reformed."

Kenya police have been accused of using undue force

Kenya police have been accused of using undue force

Addressing a crowd of about 500 protesters, lawmaker James Orengo said: "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."

Protest and opposition leader Raila Odinga lost the 2013 elections to President Uhuru Kenyatta and is due to face him again in August 2017. Kenyatta is expected to seek re-election next year for a second and final term.

Head of the CORD coalition, Odinga unsuccessfully challenged Kenyatta's election win through the courts three years ago and has accused the IEBC of bias. He said its members should quit. A disputed election in 2007 led to the deaths of about 1,200 people in ethnic fighting.

Odinga was about to address the crowd on Monday when the police intervened, forcing the gathering to disperse.

A banner held at the protest on Monday read: "For free and fair election, IEBC must go."

As demonstrators ran from the tear gas and the protest scene they were pursued by police who chased them through streets and alleyways. Some protesters had hidden in buildings but witnesses said they were flushed out by riot police who directed the towards waiting colleagues who beat them with wooden clubs and kicked them.

Other protests and scuffles with police were reported in the western cities of Kisumu and Kisii.

Western diplomats have urged authorities to work with citizens to ensure peaceful elections in 2017.

jm/msh (Reuters, AP)

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