December 21, 2012

Deadly Clashes Leave 39 Dead In Kenya

Members of the Kenya Red Cross carry an injured man after an attack in his village at Tana River district in Kenya's coastal Tana Delta region December 21, 2012. Thirty-nine people, including several children, were killed in tribal violence in the Tana Delta region on Friday, police said, heightening security concerns ahead of next year's presidential election. REUTERS/Kenya Red Cross/Handout
Members of the Kenya Red Cross carry an injured man after an attack in his village at Tana River district in Kenya’s coastal Tana Delta region December 21, 2012. Thirty-nine people, including several children, were killed in tribal violence in the Tana Delta region on Friday, police said, heightening security concerns ahead of next year’s presidential election. REUTERS/Kenya Red Cross/Handout

39 people have been killed in fresh clashes between rival communities in the Tana River district in Kenya’s Coast province, police say.

The attack by ethnic Pokomo farmers on an Orma village, Kipao, came in the early hours of the morning, they say.

Thirteen children and six women were among those killed.

Police say the latest attack was revenge for the killing of more than 100 villagers earlier this year, but some say the raids are political.

Elections are due in March 2013.

The Kenyan police have suggested this latest attack may have been in retaliation for similar attacks that took place in earlier this year.

In September, 1,000 freshly recruited officers were dispatched to the Tana Delta to try to prevent further outbreaks of violence between Pokomo farmers and members of the Orma community, semi-nomadic cattle herders.

There have been historic tensions between the two communities, over land and access to water.

But the latest violence has been on a scale not seen for many years. This year has also seen relatively good rains, which should have eased rather than exacerbated tensions.

With a general election due to be held in March, many see a political motive behind the violence.

Kenyan voters generally cast their ballots along community lines. If significant numbers of people decide to flee their homes as a result of the violence, that could influence the outcome of the vote in the region.

Police say that there have been casualties on both sides. Houses were reportedly burnt and villagers cut down with machetes.

Some victims bled to death as they were unable to be treated in time.

“About 150 Pokomo raiders attacked Kipao village, which is inhabited by the Ormas, early on Friday. The Ormas appeared to have been aware and were prepared,” Robert Kitur, Coast Region deputy police chief, told reporters.

He said police were pursuing the raiders, who used firearms, spears, machetes and arrows.

Villagers in the area have fled their homes in fear of revenge attacks, aid workers say.

The Red Cross say they know of at least 30 dead and 30 others seriously wounded, including a one-year-old child. More than 40 houses were set ablaze.

Police reinforcements and emergency officials are being flown to the scene, while the wounded are being taken to the port city of Mombasa for treatment.

In August, the two communities clashed after members of the Orma community were accused of grazing their cattle on land that the Pokomo say is theirs.

 

Settled Pokomo farmers and semi-nomadic Orma pastoralists have clashed intermittently for years over access to grazing, farmland and water in the coastal region.

Police, who have been camping out in the remote region, have been trying to disarm the two groups.

Tensions between the two communities have risen in recent days, they say.

Following the violence in August and September, an MP from the region, Assistant Livestock Minister, Dhadho Godhana, was arrested for inciting violence. He denies the charges.

The UN says the clashes may be related to the redrawing of political boundaries ahead of next year’s general election.

The last election in 2007 was marred by widespread clashes, in which more than 1,300 people were killed.

Four prominent Kenyans have been charged by the International Criminal Court over that violence.

Two of them have formed an alliance to contest the March election – their trial is due to begin a month later in The Hague.

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