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MSF claims military violence in Mt Elgon

NAIROBI, June 17 – International humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Tuesday claimed that conflict had intensified in Mount Elgon since a joint police and military operation was launched there four months ago.

The announcement came just when the government seemed to be getting a breather from incessant claims that the military had been involved in rape, looting and torture of the civilian population.

MSF Head of Mission Rémi Carrie accused Kenyan authorities of meeting violence with violence in Mount Elgon forcing civilians to endure torture and degrading treatment.

Worst of all, MSF said, the alleged State-perpetrated violence was heaped on the hell residents suffered in the hands of the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) militia, the group the military were meant to root out.

Carrie claimed that MSF medical teams in Mount Elgon had seen an escalation in the number of victims of violent trauma since the military operation codenamed ‘Okoa Maisha’ (Kiswahili for ‘Save Lives’) began there in March.

“Since the beginning of our activities, our medical teams in Mount Elgon have seen and treated victims of violent trauma. But it really peaked after the launch of the operation, with more than 250 injured people treated in the month that followed,” explained Carrier. “These victims, mostly adult men, had been injured while being screened for alleged involvement in the militia. For civilians already traumatised, repeatedly displaced and radically impoverished for almost two years now, this has only reinforced their trauma.”

Defense Minister Yussuf Hajji met a parliamentary committee last week and denied the nasty stories that began to surface in the media about a month after the military operation began.

But MSF was also raising the red flag over a feared humanitarian crisis.

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In a statement, the medical charity called for an immediate increase in basic assistance for the people of Mount Elgon.

“Medical aid alone can not answer the numerous needs of the people in Mount Elgon. They require protection from violence, increased assistance, and for more attention to be paid to their plight.”

It said tens of thousands had been displaced and mutilated and continued to live in an environment of insecurity without sufficient food, clothing or shelter.

The organisation was due to make more revelations at a news conference in Nairobi later Tuesday.

Kenya’s security forces have denied any wrongdoing in Mount Elgon. Amid rape, looting and torture allegations, officials maintain that the country’s disciplined forces remain precisely that- disciplined.

Since August 2006, the civilian population of Mount Elgon has been trapped in a violent conflict drawn from messy land allocation woes.

MSF said it had been providing medical and humanitarian relief to the people living in the Mount Elgon district since April, 2007.

“Today, as some people return home, the coping mechanisms of the residents and the displaced are stretched to their limit. As long as violence is met with more violence, with no attempt to address the root causes of the conflict, the situation is unlikely to improve substantially and the suffering will continue,” the statement concluded.

But Mt Elgon is not the only region facing land disputes.

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The State says it will address the distribution woes in the country through the ongoing National Dialogue process which birthed the Grand Coalition Government.

It however says the land problems in the country run deep and are part of historical injustices that will take time to correct.

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