9 February 2018

Kenya: Seven Schools Closed, 11 Killed in Wajir Clashes

Seven schools in Wajir County have been closed due to the ongoing inter-clan clashes that has left at least 11 people dead.

The fighting began in December at the border points of Buna and Eldas sub-Counties and has led to the closure of six schools in Buna and one in Eldas.

SCHOOLS

Speaking to the Nation, Wajir County Director of Education Hussein Osman said the communities had fled from the conflict zones.

The closed schools were Lakole, Salah, Masalale, Kuro, Basir and Fullo primary schools in Buna Sub-County and Lakole South Primary School in Eldas.

The pupils have been relocated to other schools outside the conflict zone.

Mr Osman added that another school - Malkagufu Primary School - was also likely to be closed if the tension escalated.

Residents have urged the government to intervene to stop the loss of lives and property.

The county security department said plans were underway to stop the skirmishes and ensure calm returns to the area.

DEATHS

Wajir County AP commandant Mohamed Sheikh said the number of people killed in the clashes could be higher because when the fighting began, the two warring groups would engage each other in the bush then bury their victims without the knowledge of security officers.

"As the security department we are only aware of 11 deaths," he said.

Among the victims is a chief and a home guard who were the first casualties of the skirmishes. A form three student and a 70-year-old man were shot in separate incidents as they herded camels.

Seven other victims were also killed.

The latest victim of the attacks was a pregnant woman who was shot dead in Malkagufu area in broad daylight and her body mutilated, while a man's eyes were gouged out.

DISPUTE

Mr Sheikh added that the ongoing dispute was fuelled by different factors, including lack of clear boundaries between Eldas and Buna.

The dispute escalates during drought seasons as residents scramble for resources.

He added that politics also played a hand in the conflicts, adding that investigations were ongoing.

ARREST

Wajir County commissioner John Chelimo said they were investigating people suspected of fanning the conflict.

"We have already arrested one individual who is helping us with the investigations and we are sure that we will soon apprehend the other perpetrators," he said.

The conflict has disrupted travel.

The commandant said those wishing to travel should seek police escort.

Early this year, police were forced to escort students to schools in Buna after the four buses plying the route ceased operations.

SECURITY

Mr Sheikh further said the boundary dispute would soon be resolved.

The county security department and chiefs met to plan on how to prevent further fighting.

Mr Sheikh said plans were underway to set up security camps in the hotspots that include Malkagufu, Batalu and Lakoley.

He added that they would also flush out militia groups from the area.

However, some leaders and residents in the region blamed the government for doing little to end the clashes.

Early last week, some MPs in the county held a press conference to condemn the killings and urged the government to step up its efforts to end the fighting.

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