NAIROBI, 15 July (IRIN) - The Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) on Friday appealed for nearly KES 54 million (US $707,000) to assist an estimated 3,000 people affected by clashes on Tuesday between two communities that left at least 76 people dead in the northern district of Marsabit.
The funds would be spent on providing food to those who fled their homes following the violence and help those who lost their livestock - the mainstay of the local economy in Marsabit - to replace the lost animals. The operation would last three to six months.
The armed raiders, believed to have been members of the Borana ethnic group, attacked villages in Turbi area of Marsabit, 580 km north of Nairobi, and stole livestock from the Gabra community.
"The intention was to destroy the mainstay of the economy," Abbas Gullet, Secretary-General of the KRCS, said while launching the appeal. "We need to restore the people's livelihoods so that they can live in dignity and confidence again."
He said tensions had been building up in the area and the victims seemed to have been expecting some attacks in the form of cattle raids. The attackers struck villages when most of the men were away from their homes guarding their cattle.
Most of the dead were women and children. The assailants first attacked a local primary school and massacred 22 children who were preparing for their morning lessons.
"The situation on the ground is still very volatile and there's a lot of tension following the revenge missions and retaliation of the warring communities," Gullet said.
Ten members of the Borana community, including four children, travelling to Marsabit town for a church-organised seminar were murdered in a suspected revenge attack on Wednesday.
Government officials, meanwhile, denied reports that the perpetrators of the massacre came from neighbouring Ethiopia.
"The problem is not from Ethiopia: It is from within [Kenya]," Col Shem Amadi, the director of the National Disaster Operations Centre in the office of the president, said.
Gullet also described the conflict between the Borana and the Gabra as "a home problem" and urged local leaders to have dialogue with a view to finding a lasting solution to the conflict.
Amadi said the government had beefed up security in the affected area and a combined force of the police and the army were "pursuing the culprits".
Gullet said the KRCS had delivered 64 tonnes of food which was being distributed to the affected people. He urged Kenyans to donate cash or food, preferably in the form of maize, beans and cooking oil.
An estimated 2,000 of the affected people were children who would require Unimix for their meals, according to KRCS. Medical supplies were also required for the Marsabit District Hospital where most of the wounded were being treated.
The semi-arid territory near the Ethiopian border has a history of banditry and cattle rustling among the pastoralist communities living in the area, who often fight over pasture and water points.
Meanwhile a Catholic bishop was killed in Isiolo in central Kenya on Thursday night. Police however said there was no immediate connection between Bishop Luigi Locati's death and the Marsabit massacres.
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