Kenya: Hundreds of families displaced after clashes in north

ISIOLO, 29 June 2009 (IRIN) - Five people were killed and hundreds of families displaced in fighting over pasture land on 27-28 June in Isiolo and Laikipia districts, northern Kenya, aid agencies and local officials have said.

Most of the fighting was between the pastoralist Pokot community and farming communities in the two districts.

Francis Wambua, a coordinator of the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), told IRIN on 29 June that hundreds of families in Sipili, Laikipia West District, had fled after the killing of the five - a herder, three farmers and a chief.

He said Wangwashe Primary school had closed after all the pupils fled with their families.

Transport and the livestock trade in the area had also been disrupted, the KRCS's Wambua said.

"Tension is still high; many families have stopped working on their farms; they have moved to areas where they feel safe; some are being hosted by family friends or relatives," Wambua said.

"I am afraid the crisis, which has affected farming activities, will worsen food insecurity as it will mean that most of these people will require food assistance because they will have nothing to harvest."

Conflict between different nomadic groups in the region has increased since the beginning of 2009 and observers fear the situation could worsen as the drought continues.

A local farmer, Daniel Kamau King'ori, said herders from Samburu and Isiolo districts had caused insecurity by invading their farms in search of pasture. "We sympathize with them, but they should respect us and stop destroying our crops... The government must expel and arrest all herders with guns," King'ori said.

In Isiolo, three herders were injured on 28 June and 87 camels stolen during fighting between Somali and Turkana herders in Gottu area, 30km north of Isiolo town.

Sporadic fighting over pasture has been going on in the region since early 2008, with at least 20 people reported dead by June.

"The government is not serious about stopping this fighting. Every day animals are stolen and the killing of people has been going on for several months now," Yussuf Geley, a local herder, told IRIN on 29 June.