Several thousand displaced as communities clash in north

News and Press Release
Originally published

MOYALE, 23 December 2011 (IRIN) - Several weeks of fighting between two rival communities in Moyale, near the Ethiopia-Kenya border, [ ] has displaced hundreds of families and disrupted transport services. The displaced have had no assistance, local sources and activists told IRIN.

Tension remains high in the area, residents say, as more families flee the resource-linked conflict between the Gabra and Borana pastoralist communities. The fighting was triggered by an attempt by both communities to seize a grazing area. Northern Kenya is prone to community conflicts over resources. [ ]

"The latest fighting has displaced over 6,600 people who have abandoned their farms and grazing fields; no animals are going to watering points located in areas affected by the conflict," Rashid Osman, a local leader, told IRIN on 22 December.

An estimated 15 people have died in the fighting, the latest deaths occurring on 20 December - a woman and four herders.

"Baboons are having a feast, feeding on maize which was ready for harvest but the owners have fled; hyenas are feasting on cows and goats which have been abandoned in grazing areas or were left in their sheds," Osman said.

Of those displaced, the Gabra families have sought refuge in Kinisa, a village along the Ethiopia-Kenya border while the Borana are in Butiye, about 4km from Kenya's border with Ethiopia. Most of the displaced were from Oda, Funanyatta, Adesa, Ngibe, Kalaliwe, Illadu and Funandimo villages.

Mubarak Wario, a humanitarian activist and local leader, said the displaced had not received relief aid since they had fled, some as early as November.

Aid needed

"The displaced Boranas and Gabras all need protection; they need to go back to their homes; they require urgent food and medical assistance," Wario said. "It is painful to see children and women sleeping in the open."

Sheikh Omar, an imam at Oda mosque, told IRIN: "I have lost all my belongings, all the 200 goats that I struggled to buy over the last 10 years. The goats were my main source of livelihood."

Mohamud Wako, a retired military officer from the Gabra community, said his mother died after she was stoned and her throat slit during the fighting on 20 December.

"Clashes between our communities seem to be getting worse; it is unbelievable people can turn against each other, kill and steal when they share similar problems, inter-marry and are supposed to work together to improve their lives," Wako said.

The fighting has paralysed transport services, with many residents stranded in Isiolo, Marsabit and Moyale towns after operators of public service vehicles suspended operations.

"We are likely to face a problem of food shortages and high prices of essential goods. Sugar has already increased from Sh200 [US$3] to 240 [$4] a kilo," Ahmed Sadik, a trader and resident of Moyale, said.

Issaih Nakoru, the regional commissioner for Upper Eastern, visited Moyale on 22 December. He said a peace meeting was planned to pacify the fighting groups.

"We have launched a series of peace meetings from today. All the elders, local leaders and clerics have been brought on board; we have also deployed a strong team of security officers to all the affected areas," Nakoru said.

Disarming of police reservists

It was resolved at a security meeting on 22 December that all police reservists in the affected area would be disarmed as they have been accused by local communities of using state-issued guns to fight their communities' rivals. An estimated 70 police reservists are from the two warring communities.

"Police officers have been deployed to Oda, Sololo and to the border area where inter-clan skirmishes have occurred. They are patrolling and have managed to restore calm," Nakoru said after the security meeting.

He said the displaced would be offered food aid and assisted to recover stolen livestock.

"It's our [state] obligation to hunt down cattle rustlers and not tribal militia. Besides, all the home guards have been instructed to hand over guns issued by the government by Friday [23 December]. All persons who either raided or killed are being pursued and they must be punished," Nakoru said.


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