Kenya: Insecurity in Northern Kenya - Is the Government Losing Its Grip?

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analysis

The ReGaBu alliance was formed a few months before the elections with the sole purpose of locking out the majority Boran from elective posts and administration of the new county (see this press statement by Moyale MP Roba Duba from September.)

The alliance won all the high profile positions, including governor, senator, and women's representative. The violence that took place in December 2013 displaced an estimated 30,000 people and led to the loss of lives. A number of houses were torched as well.

Proximity to the Ethiopian border has been a factor in the dynamics of the region for decades (groups such as the Boran and Gabra have cultural ties stretching across the border), with groups using the border as an outlet (reflected in recent displacement) or rear-base for militias.

More worryingly, the Moyale conflict has drawn in allegations and counter-claims about the involvement of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) - an Ethiopian rebel group.

The Boran have refuted claims that the OLF were involved, claiming rather that they themselves have been targeted by the Ethiopian and Kenya militaries for allegedly supporting the OLF (their co-ethnics).

Northwest

In the resource rich northwest Kenya - specifically in Turkana County - conflict between Tullow Oil and the local communities over employment led to the temporary closure of the operations of the exploration company in late October. Grievances centred on allegations of bias against 'locals' in the firm's hiring practices.

Although exploration work has begun, the unrest illustrates that local expectations of the benefits that will flow from the oil sector already far exceed the realities of the sector, and point to questions about the ability of government (national or county) to manage those expectations adequately as exploration continues.

Beyond the borders

The fact that the oil-rich Turkana region borders South Sudan is cause for further concern. The longer the conflict there continues without resolution, the greater the risks of instability spilling over the border into an already volatile area - most likely in the form of refugees, whose needs could be a cause for strain with other local communities.

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