26 February 2012

Kenya: Three Feared Dead in Border Clashes

Security personnel moved in large numbers into the Muhoroni area today, the scene of ethnic clashes between neighboring communities along the border ... ( Resource: Kenya: Govt Land at the Centre of Muhoroni Clashes

Three people are feared dead while two were critically injured as violence erupted at a border point of three constituencies in Muhoroni District.

More than 100 acres of sugarcane and six houses were torched as groups from the Kalenjin and Luo communities fought in Tinderet, Aldai and Muhoroni constituencies following a cattle rustling incident on the border of Rift Valley and Nyanza Provinces.

Cabinet ministers Sally Kosgei and James Orengo, assistant minister Ayiecho Olweny, MPs Henry Kosgey (Tinderet), Jakoyo Midiwo (Gem) and provincial administrators intervened to contain the conflict that was threatening to spread.

Two of the injured were rushed to Nyanza General Provincial Hospital while the rest were treated at the Masogo Sub-district Hospital and discharged.

Trouble started on Saturday afternoon when a group attacked several villages demanding back stolen animals.

On Sunday, a group of youths became rowdy at a meeting called by leaders from the two communities to resolve the matter, forcing them to call it off.

A resident, who requested anonymity, said that the problem was bigger than cattle rustling.

"We know that there are rich people here who do not want squatters to be resettled in lands that they had grabbed and they are using every means to threaten us so that we can move out of this area," he said.

However, Mr Orengo said the violence was politically instigated and dismissed the squatters issue and cattle rustling as just excuses.

On Saturday, attempts by Roads Minister Franklin Bett and Mr Olweny to restrain the youth from carrying on with the violence did not bear fruit.

According to 75-year-old Elijah Alwala, who was injured in the violence, it was a surprise attack.

"I was at the market centre at around 3pm when I heard women and children screaming from my village. When I went, I found armed youth burning houses and looting before something sharp hit me on the head," said Mr Alwala.

The meeting that was attended by Mr Kosgey, Dr Kosgei, Central Nyanza regional commissioner Arthur Osiya, Nyanza provincial commissioner Francis Mutie and Mr Midiwo ended prematurely as the youth said demanded that they should act instead of meeting when property was being burnt down.

One of the residents who requested anonymity said that no solution was going to be found in the meeting if the leaders were discussing cattle rustling whereas the problem was bigger than that.

"We know that there are rich people here who do not want squatters to be resettled in lands that they had grabbed and they are using every means to threaten us so that we move out of this area," he said.

However, lands minister Mr Orengo who flew in later that afternoon said that the violence was politically instigated and dismissed both the claims of resettlement of squatters and cattle rustling.

Mr Orengo said that the residents had last year been told that no displaced people were going to be resettled in the region and no land had been identified in the area for the purpose of resettlement.

"From my understanding, these are not ethnic clashes but a conspiracy by one politician to divide the communities that have been peaceful all along," he said.

Mr Orengo added that top government organ including the office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Internal Security are aware of the situation and appropriate security measure are being put in place.

All the political leaders present urged their counterparts to remain calm as they await the final analysis to the situation by the relevant government departments.

The MPs from the neighbouring communities later left to hold meetings with their constituents so as to convince them to retaliate.

However, tension was still rife in the region as hundreds of youth walked around armed with crude weapons such as arrows, spears and machetes.

The provincial police boss Mr Njue Njagi said they will beef up security along the borders by creating buffer zones as they wait for a long term solution.

He said that such violence was not common in the area despite cattle rustling being common in the region.

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