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Policemen chase protesters in Kisumu, Kenya August 11, 2017. © 2017 Baz Ratner /Reuters

(Nairobi) – Kenyan security forces should exercise restraint in the face of protests that take place in response to election results, Human Rights Watch said today. In any situations where security force personnel use force, they should take care to ensure that it is proportionate.

Late in the evening of August 11, 2017, Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission declared President Uhuru Kenyatta the winner of the presidency in the August 8 election. The announcement prompted reports of protests in some opposition strongholds, particularly Kisumu, parts of Nairobi, and Mombasa. 

“With growing reports of demonstrations and heavy gunfire in some areas, it is important for security forces to work to deescalate – not escalate – the violence,” said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The police should not use teargas or live ammunition simply because they consider a gathering unlawful.”

Three of Kenya’s previous four general elections were marred by violence, including the 2007-2008 election, when 1,100 people were killed and 650,000 displaced. 

As a riot-control method, teargas should be used only when necessary as a proportionate response to quell violence. It should not be used in a confined space, and canisters should not be fired directly at anyone. International guidelines, such as the United Nations Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, stipulate that the police are expected to use discretion in crowd control tactics to ensure a proportionate response to any threat of violence, and to avoid exacerbating the situation.

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