Kenya: Police reservists disarmed in Tana River

NAIROBI, 26 December (IRIN) - The Kenyan government has disarmed 638 police reservists in Tana River District, eastern Kenya, to consolidate an uneasy calm that has returned to the area after violent clashes between the two communities in November and December, the East African Standard newspaper reported on Monday, 24 December.
Moving out the reservists has helped security, though tensions in the district are still high, according to humanitarian sources on the ground. The government has also transferred some policemen belonging to the two communities and serving in the area who were believed to have taken sides in the skirmishes.

The local district commissioner, James Waweru, said 80 illegal guns suspected to have been used during the clashes had also been recovered, the Standard reported. Among the illegal guns recovered were 60 home-made ones and an assortment of 20 assault rifles, and more than 14 people have been arrested on suspicion that they had played a role in the tribal feuds, he said. One hundred and eight people had been killed in the clashes since March this year, Waweru added.

Over 50 people were killed in the latest outbreak of violence in Tana River, which began on 20 November when Pokomo farmers and Orma pastoralists clashed over rights to land and water resources, but had calmed significantly by mid-December.

While the Pokomo accuse the Orma of allowing livestock to encroach on their farms and of destroying their crops, the Orma complain that Pokomo farmlands are too close to the banks of the Tana river and prevent the herders from using the river to water their cattle.

The conflict was initially triggered in December 2000 by a controversial land adjudication programme, which could have given the Pokomo title deeds to the land they cultivate. The programme was opposed by the Orma as it could have restricted their access to vital grazing lands, according to regional analysts.

Land adjudication is one of the main factors which ignited the clashes, according to Pius Murithi, Assistant Development Coordinator for the international NGO Caritas, which is active in peacemaking efforts on the ground.

The land adjudication process had been scheduled to resume once calm returned to the region, but Waweru said on Monday that the adjudication process had been suspended indefinitely while the authorities awaited the outcome of a peace initiative group, the Standard reported.

It also said that Michael Kaseme, a director of the Coast Development Authority, had agreed with Waweru that the ongoing clashes were politically instigated and fuelled. Kaseme accused leaders of fuelling the trouble, and said they should be held responsible for allegedly instigating the unrest, the report added.

Commenting on the Tana River clashes, as well as recent violence in the Kibera suburb of Nairobi, the Catholic Church in Kenya on Monday marked the Christmas season by cautioning politicians against inciting the public ahead of next year's general elections.

Archbishop Ndingi Mwana a'Nzeki said the Church denounced leaders who uttered inflammatory statements in public, and would use its power to reject any move intended to create confusion among Kenyans, the Daily Nation reported on Wednesday.


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