Wednesday, January 09, 2013
By Daniel Wesangula
NAIROBI — At least eight people were killed Wednesday in the latest unrest to hit southeast Kenya, the
Red Cross said, raising concern over security less than two months before the first general polls since deadly post-electoral violence five years ago.
Violence in the Tana River region first erupted in August, pitting the Pokomo farming community against their Orma pastoralist neighbours and leading to a series of vicious reprisal killings and attacks.
Two of the eight killed were believed to be from the attackers, who launched a raid on the Orma village of Nduru about an hour before dawn on Wednesday, said Caleb Kilunde, a local Kenya Red Cross official.
"Three people were critically injured, with deep head cuts," he said, adding that "the situation remains volatile... with rumours of a revenge attack being planned."
A senior police officer, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, confirmed at least eight people had been killed, nine wounded and houses torched.
The police officer said those killed included both members of the Orma and Pokomo, taking the number of those killed since the clashes began last year to more than 140. In December at least 45 people were killed in an attack.
The two communities have clashed in the past, violence that has often been attributed to disputes over water and grazing rights.
But the scale and intensity of recent killings -- with women and children hacked to death or torched in their huts -- has shocked many, with some locals accusing politicians are fuelling the spate of attacks.
"Major causes of the violence are unequal resource allocation and political meddling," said Milly Lwanga, of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, an independent body set up after the 2007-8 post-election violence.
"Politicians are using the impoverished populations on the ground to create rifts among the two communities," she added.
However, local parliament member Danson Mungatana said the fighting was "not about politics", noting that "leadership positions have been rotating among the main tribes in the area."
Elections five years ago descended into deadly post-poll killings that shattered Kenya's image as a beacon of regional stability, with at least 1,100 people killed and more than 600,000 displaced.
The upcoming March 4 elections are for the presidency and parliament, as well as for regional gubernatorial posts and local councils. The run-up to the vote has been marked by renewed tensions both at the national political and grassroots levels.
About 14 million voters are registered for the elections in the country of some 40 million.
Kenya is battling a number of security threats, including a series of grenade attacks blamed on Islamist militants, supporters of Somalia's Al-Qaeda linked Shebab.