A Kenyan riot policeman repeatedly kicks Boniface Mosoti as he lies in the street. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP
Kenyan police have launched an internal investigation after graphic video footage of riot police beating and kicking an apparently unconscious man on the sidelines of an election protest caused outrage.
In the latest of several protests by opposition activists who say their leader will be denied a fair chance at next year’s election, police fired teargas and beat demonstrators with truncheons on Monday to stop them storming the offices of the electoral commission in Nairobi.
The footage appeared to show officers chasing a man in a green T-shirt as he fled a building near the commission’s headquarters. After he stumbled to the ground, they laid into him with truncheons and boots.
One officer, apparently oblivious to journalists recording the violence, attacked with such force that part of his body armour fell off. After a few seconds, the police were shown sprinting away, leaving the young man limp and motionless on the ground.
Joseph Boinnet, the inspector general of police, said: “I condemn the lawlessness visited on the public by rioters yesterday and an internal inquiry is under way to determine whether any police officer broke any law while quelling the riots.”.
The victim, who survived the attack, was later named as Boniface Mosoti, a passerby from a satellite town who had only become caught up in the day’s turmoil because he had come to the central business district for a job interview.
Mosoti told the Daily Nation he had not attended the protests, but had run into trouble while he was heading to the bus terminal for his journey home. “Several police officers beat me up with batons and left me there. I was helpless,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.
Kenyan police have a poor rights record and regularly top the list in surveys of the least trusted professionals.
But even by their standards, the apparent treatment of protesters before rolling cameras on Monday was shocking. Other videos showed police chasing after protesters, and beating and kicking them as they tried to flee.
The Kenyan national commission on human rights said it had launched an investigation into the attacks, warning that the use of force by the state should only be a “last resort” .
“The commission is particularly dismayed by the gory scenes witnessed yesterday … where demonstrators who had already been subdued were subjected to gruesome violence by the police,” it said in a statement.
“When police disobey the law with such corrosive impunity, they lose legitimacy as law enforcers and alienate themselves from the very public they are mandated to serve.”
Mosoti said that after police had moved on, journalists who had recorded the assault put down their cameras and helped carry him to a safer area, and an uncle who lived nearby eventually came to collect him.
He spent the night at his uncle’s home without any medical attention for his injuries because the family were worried about the cost, but on Tuesday morning an MP took him to hospital, he said.
There have been several similar protests in recent weeks by supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga, who lost the general election in 2013 to Uhuru Kenyatta. Odinga says the polls will not be free and fair with the current election commission in office and wants at least half the board to be replaced.
Kenyan paper The Star took aim at the election board with a cartoon that showed them holding up scores for performance, like judges in a sporting competition, as police attack the protester.
The US embassy in Nairobi and the rights group Amnesty International also condemned the violence, saying the Kenyan constitution protected the right to free speech and peaceful protest.
“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 International’s regional director for East Africa.