28 November 2012

Kenya: Militia Was Trained for Tana Killings - Human Rights Body

Photo: Capital FM
Residents view victims of ethnic violence at a mosque in the Tana Delta District (file photo).

Nairobi — There was a coordinated plan; an alleged fundraiser, a coordinated recruitment of the fighters with each village willingly contributing 10 of its fittest youths who took to the bush for training.

They trained for war.

And when they emerged, they unleashed 29 days of terror in the Tana Delta.

Fifty one men, 43 women, 22 children... brutally murdered; some through the bullet of a gun while others were bludgeoned to death with rungus as they begged for mercy from their killers.

"According to the Kenya Red Cross Society, more than 116 people were killed while 19,979 were displaced although the figure could be higher; 668 houses were razed and 198 heads of cattle were killed," reads a report compiled by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR).

The Pokomos rose against the Ormas and they retaliated as they fought over resources.

The two communities attacked each other in a military combat style and they would not leave their own behind after an attack, whether dead or barely alive.

Each of the raiders had a clearly spelt out role.

"A whistle would be blown signalling the beginning and end of an attack. The attacking squads were believed to have some of coordination that made the attacks swift and efficient," says the damning KNCHR report.

"The attackers had distinct roles; where there were those who would carry out the attack, those who would carry the injured or dead and those who would issue instructions."

About 300 men with red ribbons strapped on their heads, would attack a village, looking like ninjas. A week wouldn't lapse before their opponents in green uniform and covered heads, retaliated.

Although each attack barely lasted 20 minutes, survivors of the blood bath would live to tell of horrid tales.

In one instance, an elderly woman was allegedly pushed back into the same burning hut she was trying to escape from. Her attackers made sure she burnt to death. Several women and children also met their death in the Kilelengwani Mosque, where they hid for dear life.

"Not everyone who escaped to the mosque made it. Those who did not make it were slain in cold blood at the waiting bay. It is also alleged that some of the attackers defecated at the mosque's altar," notes the KNCHR.

These were the events witnessed in Garsen constituency between August 14 and September 11.

"Between August 3 and 5 cattle again strayed into a farm and were hacked to death. Then on August 14, Ormas drove their cattle into Pokomo farms. The Pokomos confronted them and clashes erupted resulting in the death of three people," says the KNCHR.

"Seven others were injured; 198 cattle were killed and the herdsmen fled after razing 110 houses."

A mass exodus of women and children was seen before the attacks, which began in April before intensifying in August through September.

According to the KNCHR there were community meetings, a reported influx of firearms, verbal reports that the attacks were looming in addition to fund raisings prior to the deadly killings.

In other instances chiefs and their sub-chiefs would suddenly disappear just before an attack.

"An observation made by the KNCHR was the coincidence of absence of chiefs and sub chiefs before the occurrence of attacks. Some of the chiefs explained their absence as a consequence of an illness," says the KNCHR.

"But it is worth noting that some of them were suspended from duty for these failures."

According to the KNCHR, tensions will remain high and the forthcoming elections will not make things any better.

"It is unlikely that normalcy will resume within a short time. The heavy ethnic animosity, heavy security personnel presence and heightening of political temperatures make this an unrealistic expectation," warns the KNCHR.

"Medium case scenario is that the current situation will last three months while worst case scenario is that the situation will last until after the general elections."

Issues surrounding grazing lands must also be resolved.

"The stretch along the River Tana is a pasture reserve for the Orma while for the Pokomo it is a fertile section for cultivation hence the inherent conflict. The Orma and Wardei look at land as God-given while the Pokomos believe land to be theirs," read the report.

"As long as these differences in perception towards resources exist the hostility and animosity will never cease."

Sixty witness spoke to the human rights watchdog; 28 agreed to record statements.

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