52 people killed in Tana River clashes

In 2001, at least 130 people were killed in a string of clashes in the same district/FILE

NAIROBI, Aug 22 – At least 52 people were killed on Tuesday night during clashes between members of the Pokomo and Orma communities in Tana River.

The attacks occurred when militiamen from the Pokomo side raided manyattas at Reketa area in Tana River, and slashed villagers to death before setting their houses ablaze.

“In total 52 people died; they include 34 women, 11 children and seven men,” deputy police chief for Mombasa, Joseph Kitur, said.

Sixty cows were also slashed to death by the attackers during the deadly fighting.

“It is a very bad incident, 34 were hacked to death and we have 14 others who were burnt to death in their houses,” he added, “Our investigations have shown that it is the Pokomos who attacked the Orma people who live at an island.”

The two communities have been fighting over land, pasture and water since last month, but Wednesday’s attack was seen as the worst in their history.

“Our officers are on the ground pursuing the attackers,” he said, but could not confirm reports that some of the perpetrators were already in custody.

Police said tension had been building between the two communities for more than two weeks, but there was no immediate warning on the Wednesday night attacks.

In 2001, at least 130 people were killed in a string of clashes in the same district and between the same two communities about access to land and a river.

“Clashes over pasture have been recurrent in this region,” police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said.

The Pokomo are a largely settled farming people, planting crops along the Tana River, while the Orma are largely cattle-herding pastoralists.

“Our investigations have shown that it is the Pokomo who attacked the Orma people, who live on an island” in the river, Kitur added.

Garsen Member of Parliament Danson Mungatana, who represents the area, said the killings were “revenge attacks”, adding there had been a string of tit-for-tat killings, attacks and cattle raids this month, though on a far smaller scale.

“There have been problems simmering for a while…. About 10 days ago three Pokomo were killed by the Orma community,” he said.

“In revenge, the Orma raided villages occupied by the Pokomo and burnt down more than 100 houses. Now the Pokomo have once again revenged by killing about 50 people. These are purely revenge attacks.”

In 2007 Kenya spiraled into violence after contested elections that left some 1,200 people dead and half a million others displaced.

President Mwai Kibaki issued a statement on Wednesday evening condemning the killing of innocent people in Tana River County.

The president sent a message of condolence to the families, relatives and friends of those who died following the attack.

He said investigations have begun with a view to not only apprehend the culprits but also ensure such heinous acts do not recur.

President Kibaki assured that security had been beefed up in Tana River County to ensure that the lives and property of the residents are protected.

The Head of State, at the same time, wished the injured quick recovery.

BERNARD MOMANYI

BERNARD MOMANYI

Bernard is the News Editor at Capital FM. He commands over a decade of experience in news gathering having worked in both print and electronic media. He holds a BSc degree in Information Sciences from Moi University where he is currently enrolled for a Masters programme.

  • Bishop

    Sad, sad, sad, where is the govt intelligence in this country?????

    • perepepe

      Exactly where you left it. Underfunded with their budget slashed further by Parliament because Gen Gichangi refused to appear before it and therefore the select committee resorted to vindictiveness. Find them under the thumb of human rights organisations.

  • Peter

    As much as we may want to be quick in pointing fingers to the gvnt, this is a matter calling all Kenyan to be responsible. All leaders including the religious figures must do the necessary by preaching peace at all coast.

  • karubu

    “Wednesday night” in the first paragraph not yet (bad reporting). We Kenyans should learn to live peacefully with each other.

  • Nash

    Our beloved president has not scrambled the security forces on this one… and I have not heard of any condolences from the big house on the hill. Ama these are not as Kenyan as the others? Double standards. ALL of us must be accorded same dignity.

  • NEO_KENYAN

    We should move with haste and have the person(s) who murdered 31 women and 11 children, run for the presidency. After all, the appeal process hasn’t been exhausted.

    • perepepe

      He must be a reformist I suppose?

      • NEO_KENYAN

        No, a murdered will do just fine.

        • perepepe

          Oh come now, only reformists benefit from death and mayhem…they are awarded lofty positions for their trouble. Then point fingers at others and call them murderers while conveniently adopting amnesia and holier-than-thou attitude to their colourful history from 1982 Coup de ta to PEV a couple of years ago. Only division, death and destruction in their wake.

          • NEO_KENYAN

            Clever, but I’m on to you. I never mentioned reformists, you’re the one who brought it up. All I’m saying is, if we can let one murderer run for the presidency, we should apply the law equally and let his fellow murderers have a “stab” at office. That thing Mutunga keeps calling the constitution, I believe says something about this equality thing.

          • perepepe

            Indeed I brought it up. Allegations do not amount to conviction. Simply because the West needs our resources channelled to them and not to the Chinese, and proceed to spur on a process that is driven on trumped up charges so as to get their ”reformist” into power on the basis of coached and bribed witnesses does not render one guilty. They declined to allow an insider to submit evidence so where is the imaprtiality in all this hullabaloo?

  • perepepe

    Very sad indeed. The loss of even one life is one life too many on the premise of fighting for natural resource. If the police are to pursue the militia, we ought to support their effort wholeheartedly and unequivocally . But the human rights organisations will be waiting in the sidelines as vultures would do to pick out the Security Forces who intend to restore Law and Order. They’ll be screaming extra-judicial killings whilst furiously typing reports to their masters seeking funding for investigations that will lead to impotence in our Security Forces. The donors of these fly-by-night NGOs will quickly adopt these reports and have their Legislatures ban all manner of funding to our Security forces. If you doubt this familiar pattern closely examine the Land Saboat Defence Forces wroughting in Mt Elgon. Our Security Forces delivered by liberating innocent Kenyans, and now the Congress is banning any US funding towards our Army following reports by busybodies in civil societies.

  • Larry

    Though it’s a sad, pastoral communities should learn to live in harmony with farmers. They (Somalis & Orma) are the cause of insecurity in most farming communities of Eastern & Coast Provinces. It happened in Voi, Taita/Taveta County. Thanks to the local police they averted more bloodshed. These two communities are the same who usual cry out for food relief, when there’s drought. Govt should now should set up a permanent post Rapid Deployment Unit who should be monitoring the movement of pastoral communities during their annual migration or whenever there’s need to, to avert these unnecessary bloodshed.

  • Boiyot

    This is very sad and unacceptable! From comments by the area MP, there was enough intelligence that trouble was brewing between the two communities and yet no one even did anything!
    The president, police and community leaders have completely failed the people here! 52 dead and God knows how many will be shot by the security forces and the rest locked up. No one is going to win here…
    Only if someone had stepped forward and mediated/persuaded the two communities on the importance of peaceful coexistence.
    My heart goes out to those who’ve lost family members to this senseless tragedy.
    My prayer is that the authorities, community leaders and any other responsible bodies will have the sense to go in now and prevent any further escalations.
    It is not ok for the area MP to allege that these were ‘just’ revenge attacks. Call it what you may, but lives were lost and that is not right…
    God help Kenya

  • Nyakio

    when they say it all falls on leadership who is the PC,DC, chiefs councillors, MPs of these people? How is it that they are still fighting over water & pasture? We need leaders who care for the people & not react to incidents. Where were they when this was brewing? This was not unknown, people knew about it. It was a matter of time. We need leaders who are involved with the people.

  • Ron Bockman

    obama’s people