Kenya + 1 more

East Africa: 53 Turkana killed in firefight with rustlers

NAIROBI, 27 December (IRIN) - Police in Kenya have reported the killing of 53 Turkana pastoralists in Lokitaung (4.16N 35.45E), Turkana District, northwestern Kenya, by a large group of armed cattle rustlers, believed to be from "a neighbouring country".
A deputy police spokesman, Dola Indidis, said the herdsmen were killed when 200 Turkana migrating from Lopotikor to Koringany in Nagapal location of Lokitaung in search of pasture encountered over 400 heavily armed cattle rustlers, the East African Standard newspaper reported on Thursday. It did not indicate when, in recent days, the attack had taken place.

Another 10 Turkana were wounded in a fierce exchange of fire between the pastoralist herders and the rustlers, Indidis said. Six donkeys and 10 goats were taken, while 23 cattle had bullet wounds, he added.

A combined force of security personnel was pursuing the attackers, but no arrests had been made, the report quoted Indidis as saying.

In September, more than 18 people were killed in rustling battles between the Turkana and Toposa tribesmen from southern Sudan, the East African Standard reported.

At that time, it said, about 100 Toposa raiders, armed with AK-47 rifles, raided manyattas (homesteads) at Lotubai in Lokori division, Turkana District, engaging them in a fierce exchange of fire. The herdsmen, with the help of Kenya police reservists, shot dead 11 of the attackers, while six Turkana were killed. The Toposa stole 7,314 animals, and left four more Turkana seriously injured, according to the newspaper.

Meanwhile, the Daily Nation newspaper reported on Tuesday that eight people had been killed when suspected cattle rustlers from Uganda raided a village in Turkana District last week. The attackers drove away more than 1,000 head of cattle and goats, the report said, in what it termed "a new wave of cattle rustling in northwestern Kenya".

Francis Ewaton, the KANU [ruling Kenya Africa National Union] MP for Turkana South, told the press in Kitale that the raiders who invaded his constituency were escaping a disarmament exercise in Moroto and Karamoja, eastern Uganda.

The Karamojong have been widely criticised for carrying out armed cattle raids against neighbouring districts in eastern Uganda, most notably in Katakwi District, where some 80,000 people have been forced into displacement camps.

News reports suggest that the Karamojong disarmament exercise, started by President Yoweri Museveni on 2 December, has been fairly successful so far, with thousands of illegally held weapons handed in.

The Ugandan government initially provided weapons to small groups of "home guards" within the Karamoja subregion on the grounds that the Karamojong were under threat from cross-border raids by Turkana and Pokot pastoralist groups from Kenya. In return for disarmament, Museveni has pledged to protect the Karamojong from such attacks by deploying troops along the border.

The nature and scope of traditional cross-border cattle raiding by different Kenyan, Ugandan and Sudanese tribes has been altered enormously by the widespread availability of small arms in eastern Africa.

Ewaton named the areas affected by Ugandan raiders in his constituency as Kaakong, Lokori, Lorogon, Kainuk, Kalimnorok and Lokapel, and said people had fled their homes in fear after the latest attacks, the Daily Nation reported.

The MP said some of the stolen animals had been hidden in West Pokot and East Baringo districts, and claimed that his constituents had been overpowered because they had surrendered their arms to the Kenyan government, and the raiders had outnumbered police reservists.

Ewaton accused the provincial administration of not doing enough to protect his constituents, and demanded that security personnel be dispatched to recover the animals, the report added.

[ENDS]

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